Germany wants to introduce a new road tax which 'discriminates' against foreigners
Politicians from neighbouring states reacted with fury after the EU Commission agreed Angela Merkel’s government can go ahead with plans to charge foreigners for using the country’s roads.
Brussels had initially threatened to block the proposal by Berlin, under which all cars using Germany’s highways will be automatically charged a toll but those registered in the country will be later reimbursed.
Austrian’s transport minister fumed that the climbdown by eurocrats was another example of how the “big countries” like Germany overwhelmingly get their own way in the EU.
The furious response came after Brussels transport chief Violeta Bulc broke cover to defend the EU Commission, saying it will bring forward laws to end discrimination against foreign drivers.
Under the proposals non-Germans will be charged for using the country's roads
Eurocrat Violeta Bulc defended the decision not to carry on a prosecution of Berlin over the measure
But she got short shrift from angry ministers and MEPs, who branded the new law discriminatory and said eurocrats’ failure to stop it will further erode public confidence in the bloc.
The ballooning row comes at a particularly difficult moment for Berlin, which is reeling from a string of deeply personal accusations made by new US president Donald Trump.
He has lambasted the EU and the euro as a “vehicle for Germany” which has impoverished other European states, once more opening up a decades-old debate about how much influence the continent’s largest country should wield.
If everyone tries to hurt the other and break the rules, Europe will fall apar
Austrian transport minister Jorg Leichtfried
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A group of 11 countries are mounting a fierce opposition to Berlin’s new road tax, arguing that allowing the country to single out foreigners will severely damage the EU.
Austrian transport minister Jorg Leichtfried, one of those leading the charge, branded it “clearly discriminatory” and raged: “If everyone tries to hurt the other and break the rules, Europe will fall apart. The European Commission has to be aware of this danger.”
And now MEPs have got in on the act, drafting a non-binding resolution castigating the proposed law and saying it will make it harder for people to travel.
According to Euractiv the strongly-worded document bemoans the rule change as discriminatory against non-Germans, and it is likely to receive strong backing when it is put before parliament next month.
Angela Merkel in pictures
Tue, November 29, 2016
Angela Merkel has served as German Chancellor since 2005 and Leader of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000. We take a look at her political career in pictures.
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the gala for the 200th anniversary of Werner von Siemens on November 29, 2016 at the historic headquarters of Siemens in Berlin
Addressing MEPs in Strasbourg yesterday Ms Bulc defended a deal agreed between Jean-Claude Juncker and Germany which ended year-long legal proceedings the Commission had initiated against Berlin.
She said: “It is very important for me and the EU that Germany now agrees to put their road charging forum in the context of a future EU-wide system.
“The infringement will be closed if and only if the Commission is convinced the German laws do not discriminate against foreign drivers,” she said.
The EU Commission agreed to drop its case against the new law, which was a key election pledge of Mrs Merkel’s sister party, in return for Germany modifying it to reduce costs for greener vehicles.