Get­ting tough

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By REUTERS in Brus­sels

The EU be­gins le­gal ac­tion against emis­sions test cheat­ing by car­mak­ers.

The Euro­pean Union be­gan le­gal ac­tion on Thurs­day against Ger­many, the United King­dom and five other mem­ber states for fail­ing to po­lice emis­sions tests by car­mak­ers after the Volk­swa­gen diesel scan­dal.

Amid mount­ing frus­tra­tion in Brus­sels over what EU of­fi­cials see as gov­ern­ments col­lud­ing with the pow­er­ful car in­dus­try, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is wield­ing its big­gest avail­able stick in an at­tempt to force na­tions to clamp down on diesel cars spew­ing health-harm­ing ni­tro­gen ox­ide pol­lu­tion.

Ger­man of­fi­cials — who say the EU law is poorly framed — had ex­pected Brus­sels to stop short of con­fronting the EU’s lead­ing power and by far its big­gest car man­u­fac­turer.

Thurs­day’s ac­tion was a sign that the EU ex­ec­u­tive, un­der pres­sure from the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, is keen to prove its worth to vot­ers.

Ger­many, the UK, Spain and Lux­em­bourg stand ac­cused of fail­ing to im­pose the kind of penal­ties Volk­swa­gen has faced in the United States over its use of il­le­gal “de­feat de­vice” soft­ware to mask real-world NOx emis­sions blamed for res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses and early deaths.

Ger­man Trans­port Min­is­ter Alexan­der Do­brindt said: “Ger­many is the only Euro­pean coun­try to have im­ple­mented a com­pre­hen­sive list of mea­sures to pre­vent unau­tho­rized use of de­feat de­vices.”

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion also ac­cused Ber­lin and Lon­don of re­fus­ing to share de­tails of sus­pi­cious find­ings re­vealed by na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the “diesel­gate” scan­dal — without which it can­not carry out a su­per­vi­sory role.

“This goes far beyond Volk­swa­gen,” said an EU source, adding that of­fi­cials had more cases planned in a push to force cars spew­ing up to five times le­gal NOx lim­its off the road.

Thurs­day’s no­tice is the first step in what is known as in­fringe­ment pro­ce­dures, al­low­ing the EU to en­sure the bloc’s 28 na­tions abide by agreed EU-wide reg­u­la­tions. Mem­ber states have two months to re­spond.

If they fail to do so con­vinc­ingly, the EU may take them to the EU court.


In a sys­tem the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is seek­ing to over­haul, na­tional watch­dogs ap­prove new cars and have the sole power to po­lice man­u­fac­tur­ers — though once ap­proved in one coun­try, ve­hi­cles can be sold across the bloc.

High­light­ing the sys­tem’s short­com­ings, the Com­mis­sion said another three coun­tries — the Czech Repub­lic, Lithua­nia and Greece — do not have pro­vi­sions in na­tional law al­low­ing for fines against car­mak­ers in case of breaches.

Euro­pean con­sumer lobby BEUC hailed the cases, say­ing not enough had been done to pro­tect EU cit­i­zens — a year since the United States caught VW cheat­ing and went on to win com­pen­sa­tion for its con­sumers. “It is a strong re­buke of Ger­many and other coun­tries’ in­ac­tion,” said BEUC head Monique Goyens.

Ger­many is the only Euro­pean coun­try to have im­ple­mented a com­pre­hen­sive list of mea­sures to pre­vent unau­tho­rised use of de­feat de­vices.” Alexan­der Do­brindt, Ger­man trans­port min­is­ter

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