Slovakia rebuffs jibes over Dieselgate no-show
By Peter Teffer
Slovakia has dismissed criticism from MEPs over the failure of its transport minister to testify at the European Parliament's inquiry committee into the Dieselgate scandal.
Slovak EU presidency spokeswoman Elena Visnar Malinovska told EUobserver on Tuesday (22 November) that Slovakia had sent “detailed replies” to written questions from the committee.
She said the government did not see the "added value" of Arpad Ersek appearing in front of the committee, adding that he had only been installed in his job "a few weeks ago". She stressed Slovakia was "committed to cooperate duly and forcefully".
Ersek became transport minister on 31 August. His predecessor had already been invited in July.
Ersek is the only invited minister who has refused to testify, according to the committee's chairwoman Kathleen Van Brempt.
His refusal is diplomatically awkward, since the Slovaks hold the rotating six-month presidency of the EU Council, where member states meet.
“Members of the committee find this failure to respect parliament’s right of inquiry, particularly by the Member State currently holding the EU Presidency, completely unacceptable,” Van Brempt said in a press release published last Friday (18 November).
“This behaviour is entirely contrary to the principle of sincere cooperation between institutions stemming from the treaties, especially considering that in the automotive sector, the implementation of the EU law is a sole responsibility of the Member States.”
But Slovakia argued that it need not appear because it does not grant final stamps of approval for car models.
“Slovakia hosts no testing facility that would type-approve the whole vehicle. In Slovakia, the technical departments only carry out type-approval of singular components,” the Slovak spokeswoman said.
EU parliament president Martin Schulz intervened on behalf of Van Brempt.
Schulz wrote to Ersek that despite the fact Slovakia does not issue these certificates, “your participation in such a hearing would still be pertinent, as the Slovak Republic currently hosts the production for Volkswagen, Kia Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen”.
The centre-left German added that with one million units produced in 2015, Slovakia is the sixth largest car producer in the EU.
“I believe that it would indeed be interesting to have more details on which are the actual arrangements in place for type-approving these vehicles,” wrote Schulz.
Van Brempt noted that the consequences of Ersek's “lack of cooperation will be duly reflected in the final report”.
Whether that will be the case remains to be seen, given that Ersek is a member of the party Most-Hid, which is part of the powerful centre-right EPP family.
The committee has previously also had trouble to convince centre-left politicians to appear. Former industry commissioner Guenther Verheugen from Germany and French socialist environment minister Segolene Royal initially declined or stalled.
Verheugen had also initially refused on grounds that he thought he would have nothing to add.
On Thursday, Royal will appear as a witness.