EU climate talk spotlights commission's gas-guzzling cars
By Honor Mahony
EU commissioners are finding themselves under scrutiny to see if they are putting into practice the green values that Brussels is increasingly preaching, with most of the 120-strong fleet of officials cars comprising gas-guzzling, C02-emitting giants.
The big vehicles that make up the chauffeured cars for commissioners sits uneasily with the executive's newly minted green credentials, which sees it raising the importance of the fight against climate change almost daily.
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At the moment, the vast majority of the 27 commissioners use the standard-issue vehicles such as Audis or Mercedes – high on security features but rather lower on environment friendliness - to be ferried here and there across Brussels; sometimes even the few hundred metres between commission buildings.
The rest of the fleet consists of vans, minibuses and cars used to transport goods and documents.
However with his service car up for renewal, environment commissioner Stavros Dimas may blow in a wind of change. The Greek lawyer is to change from his S-class German Mercedes to a Japanese service car - probably a Lexus hybrid.
Mr Dimas' decision has taken on a political dimension, as he is engaged in a public spat with the German car industry which is strongly opposed to his plans to force car manufacturers to build vehicles that emit a maximum of 120 grammes of CO2 per kilometre.
It has also raised the question of whether other commissioners are planning to follow suit.
A commission spokesperson said "It's an individual decision for commissioners what their service car should be but as a general rule, the commissioners choose cars that are functional and safe for what they are doing."
Brussels also pointed out that energy efficiency is now a part of its criteria for public tenders for buildings and computers but also cars, and that some of its transport vehicles have been exchanged for the more eco-friendly Volkswagen Polos.
But on the private front, as in the public, the commission is sending out mixed messages on its environment saving efforts.
EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs recently traded in his Renault Megane for a biofuel-run Saab, anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas is an avid cyclist being president of the Estonian cyclist union while commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso drives a fuel-guzzling Volkswagen SUV.