Bulc under fire in Parliament for stance of German road toll plans

20. Februar 2017 zur Übersicht

Artikel erschienen über "Agence Europe" am 18.02.2017

Aus dem Französischen von Pascal Hansen

Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc had to face a particularly hostile European Parliament on Wednesday evening 15 February, highly critical of the agreement reached with Germany in December on plans for motorway tolls. Germany plans to introduce a system of motorway badges to finance infrastructure. The problem is that this has provoked uproar in neighbouring member states which feel that the system will discriminate on the grounds of nationality and opposition from the European Commission which referred the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU in September 2016 before swiftly thereafter reaching agreement with Berlin and suspending the infringement procedure while awaiting the definitive text from Germany.

This decision was greeted widespread incomprehension in the Parliament Chamber. Criticism was unanimous, cross-party and emanated even from German MEPs.

Ismail Ertug (S&D, Germany) was one of the most vociferous. For him, it was clear how the agreement had come about. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had intervened personally on the matter to steady the Centre-Right CDU/CSU coalition to which Angela Merkel belongs, he stated. Furthermore, he argued, the agreement eased the adoption of the ETS agreements. Michael Cramer (Greens/EFA, Germany) pointed out that Germany regularly had brought forward plans for road charging since the 1990s, and had always been knocked back. In his opinion, this current version had to suffer the same fate since the proposal on the table is not based on kilometres travelled and, thus, does not comply with the polluter pays principle. The story was the same from Gesine Meissner (ALDE, Germany), who said that the new law would hinder the economic growth of Lower Saxony. From the EPP, the political group to which the CDU/CSU coalition belongs, criticism, expressed by Pascal Arimont (Belgium), was sharp, too.

Bulc’s defence. The defence advanced by the commissioner was as simple as it was effective. The suspension procedure was usual and had already been used with other member states in the past. Above all, the Commission is awaiting the final version of the German proposal before deciding on whether or not to continue with the infringement proceedings.