OPP Meeting Summary: EP Plenary – Topical debate on Dieselgate (13 September 2017)

A summary of the main points from the Institutions and the political groups is now available.

EP Plenary – 13 September
Topical Debate on Dieselgate

Full opening statements of Commissioner Katainen and Bieńkowska are available below:

Vice-President Katainen’s opening statement at the plenary debate on “Dieselgate”, on 13 September 2017 in Strasbourg

Speech by Commissioner Bieńkowska: Strengthening EU environment, health, consumer rights standards in connection to recent actions by Member States, including Germany and Austria

Opening statement by Commissioner Katainen:

  • the Commission was acting simultaneously on three fronts:
    • better enforcement: determined to pursue these infringement procedures so as to ensure proper enforcement of the current Type-approval legislation and to avoid that additional non-compliant cars enter the European market, aggravating the existing air quality problem;
    • better market surveillance: the Commission urged the Member States to do their part and ensure compliance of the existing diesel fleet with the type-approval rules;
      • the French authorities were investigating possible irregularities in diesel vehicles from Renault and PSA since January;
      • the German authorities were following-up on irregularities in diesel vehicles produced by Daimler, Audi, and Porsche since June and more recently by Ford;
      • the Dutch authorities continued their investigations and notably brought two vehicle types from Jeep and Suzuki, respectively, to the attention of the public prosecutor;
      • regarding the Volkswagen (VW) group that were at the origin of the emission scandal and as such were already identified as non-compliant with the current emission rules, a recall campaign by the manufacturer was underway across the EU. The Commissioner assured that that the Commission will continue to monitor VW’s action plan on the affected vehicles – more than half of the 8.4 Million vehicles of the VW group affected across the EU had been recalled;
      • the Commission welcomed the decision of four Member States – Austria, Germany, Finland and Portugal who made their recall campaigns mandatory;
      • the Commission also welcomed the initiative of Germany and Austria who organised National “Diesel summits” on 2 August and 22 August. It was a step forward and other MS needed to follow;
      • the measures proposed by the industry needed to lead to an effective reduction of emissions on the road and not only in the laboratory. That was the only way to avoid the Diesel bans that were discussed in some Member States as a reaction to the scandal;
    • better rules for the future: as from 1 September 2017 improved testing procedures – both in laboratory conditions (WTLP) and in real driving conditions (RDE) – would become mandatory for all new vehicle types;
      • it was necessary to increase the transparency and control of emissions from vehicles by allowing independent parties to test in-use vehicles;
      • the Commission had pursued the work to review and possibly to bring down the conformity factors used to “translate” the measurements on the road to those in the lab. The new Real Driving Emission (RDE) Regulation could lower them;
      • the new framework would reinforce the independence of testing, which would remain a national responsibility, but at the same time reinforce its European oversight;
  • finally, it was necessary to make sure that it was Europe that produces best low-emission, connected and automated mobility solutions, equipment and vehicles;
  • the second part of the Mobility Package would be delivered this year. With this package the Commission would present an integrated and future-oriented approach to mobility.

Opening statement by Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE):

  • dieselgate was a health, consumer and a political scandal:
    • health: 72 thousand people died from nitrogen-dioxide annually – three times more than from traffic accidents;
      • it was necessary to upgrade diesel cars and software updates were not sufficient in this regard;
      • she requested the Commission to present a proposal this fall for the upgrading and retrofitting of diesel cars. Common standards were necessary;
      • the MS needed to start protecting citizens’ health and stop protecting the car industry. Actions needed to be taken to stop damage;
    • consumers: anyone that bought a diesel car thought it might be cheaper, however the consumers had been conned. The car manufacturers got out of the situation without any fines or general compensation. It was a “fiasco“;
      • the Commission needed to institute proceedings against Germany and other MS;
      • environmental associations and consumers needed to be able to take action in such situations;
    • politics: in her view, the diesel summit was a just a summit of “buddies“. The German government had gone against the EU law and gave a blessing to the car manufacturers;
  • An EU-wide test was necessary. It was crucial to ensure that the Commission took its own tests and monitored the car industry – “stop fake tests and loopholes“.

Opening statement by the Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas:

  • there were large discrepancies in NOx emissions measured in laboratories and on the road, which was known to the stakeholders since 2015;
  • regulatory standards were important and a decisive action had been taken by reaching an agreement on the National Emissions Ceiling Directive in 2016, which needed to be transposed by 2018, setting stricter national limits;
  • regarding test procedures, major steps had been taken by the Commission. New card models would pass reliable emission tests before they could be driven on European roads;
  • during the first trilogue, both co-legislators had agreed on a robust legislation that reinforced market surveillance and made the system more transparent;
  • urban bus fleets were diesel-based today. However, the commitment of EU cities to convert the bus fleets into alternative fleets was considered impressive. The Commission, the European Investment Bank, the Committee of the Regions and the Presidency welcomed all efforts by public transport companies in this regard;
  • it was necessary to convert road transport into train and waterway transport. 21,4 billion euros were dedicated to rail and inland waterways projects under the EU funding sources for implementing the Trans-European Transport Networks.

Interventions from the political groups

Krišjānis Kariņš (EPP, LV)

  • he asked not to “put all eggs in the same basket“. Reduction of Co2 emissions was a good objective, however, in his view, through different fiscal policies and regulations in the EU, the diesel industry was indirectly promoted;
  • through the fiscal policies, consumers gave preference to diesel vehicles and the diesel industry had employed millions of workers. The industry had kept the society in the dark for years as to how many toxic substances were emitted, not only in the area of Co2 but also NoX. NoX didn’t necessarily harm the environment but the health of human beings;
  • it was necessary to be realistic and rather than banning diesel it was better to call upon the manufacturers to improve the technology itself;
  • in his view, one single technology should not be promoted as the developments of the future were still unknown.

Kathleen Van Brempt (S&D, BE)

  • climate policy was not responsible for the cheating of the car industries in Europe;
  • in her view, the speech of Commissioner Katainen was “weak and not serious“;
  • the recall program of VW needed to be completed by this fall, but three million cars had not been recalled yet;
  • the MS still had different rules on the voluntary/mandatory obligations and she questioned the Commission how it will make sure that all the consumers in Europe had the same rights;
  • electric cars and sharing mobility were the future and if the EU did not make sure to have a zero emission mandate, the cars would be imported from China and other countries;
  • finally, she quoted the former Commissioner Janez Potočnik – ” we must stop killing industry with kindness, by giving into the calls for less ambitions and longer time to achieve goals and loopholes“;
  • it was necessary to make sure the car industry had a sustainable future.

Dan Dalton (ECR, UK)

  • improved testing procedures which would become mandatory from September onwards were a ‘huge step forward‘, however a lot more needed to be done;
  • one of the main problems was the “cosy club” between car manufacturers and governments. It was necessary to open up the club and make it more transparent;
  • lastly, he called for proper market surveillance of the MS, reviews and audits of the whole process and to shine a light on weaknesses at every stage.

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, NL)

  • the core problem was that the EU Governments barely took any action;
  • the German authorities had not taken any action against VW, the recall program was weak and the consumers had not been compensated;
  • the UK refused action against Skoda, despite all evidence and the Netherlands took limited steps as well;
  • the Commission had done a few things, like initiating the infringement proceedings against Italy and other countries in May. However, a lot of countries had not been chased after;
  • he questioned the Commission what it plans to do with the infringement proceedings against the MS in the future;
  • in his view, the Council’s statement was “nice“, but the real pain was in the MS. He questioned when an official reaction and the enforcement of EU legislation could be expected in the MS;
  • lastly, he requested not to talk about what needed to be improved in the future, but to take action now considering the cars on European roads.

Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL, DE) 

  • she was from an area in Eastern Germany where 40% of what was produced in the industrial sector had to do with the car industry. She said that everybody was frightened of the damage caused by these emissions;
  • clean diesel was as clean as coal with CCS. The Commission needed to introduce stricter emission regulations and not bend before the German government;
  • it was necessary to increase market transparency and compensate the consumers.

Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL)

  • the big question was what would happen with millions of cars on EU roads today;
  • he said that Commissioner Bienkowska had mentioned in July that all non-compliant cars needed to be removed from the market as soon as possible, he was surprised he did not hear that today;
  • the example of diesel summits in Germany and Austria praised by Commissioner Katainen were considered to be the “worst example“. He questioned what was the result of those summits and said that latest studies had shown that euro6 cars were emitting 4,5% more than what was allowed;
  • in his view, such cars would be sold in Poland, Estonia because the consumers would still buy it there and not in Germany. All of those cars would go to Central European regions. He questioned was that the solidarity President Juncker had been talking about in his speech;
  • lastly, he questioned the Commission when it would be coming forward with guidelines and what needed to happen with software updates – “If you leave it to the national authorities, you will get results like the diesel summit in Germany which only legalised non-compliant & polluting cars for our citizens, and that is not the example of Europe, Mr. Katainen“.

Eleonora Evi (EFDD, IT)

  • in her view, the problem would not be solved by updating practices in the labs;
  • she said that a fraud was detected and the Commission and the MS had been turning a blind eye to diesel vehicles;
  • the cosy relationship between car companies and the institutions was one of the main problems. She said that VW had a 16% increase in sales this year and that there was schizophrenia in the approach of the EU institutions;
  • she wanted to move away from the “stronger always prevails in the jungle” approach and highlighted the hypocrisy in EU law.

Georg Mayer (ENF, AT)

  • he warned against demonising diesel engines and said that the Greens loved to spread concern;
  • electric vehicles were not a sustainable solution as it was still unknown where the electricity would come from. There was no technology available for electric mobility, hence it was not the greenest solution;
  • he questioned who would benefit if the automotive industry would be “damaged” in this way.

Closing statement by Commissioner Bieńkowska:

  • further discussions were needed in order to understand that the future of the industry was non emission cars or low emission and not diesel cars;
  • the scandal was not over yet as the industry harmed the health of citizens and the environment;
  • the goal was to compensate the consumers, and not CEOs. It was necessary to save the industry from itself;
  • she was disappointed that only this month the trilogue on the new type-approval framework had taken place and believed it took too long. However, now that the Trilogues had started,  she wanted to agree on a high quality new European framework by the end of the year;
  • she admitted that she understood the need for an EU agency and that when the proposal had been presented, the magnitude of the emission scandal was unknown;
  • she was determined to:
    • pursue the infringement procedures, so as to ensure proper enforcement of the current Type-approval legislation;
    •  reduce the conformity factor of the second RDE package. More details would follow in Spring;
    • software and hardware measures needed to be considered;
    • stop the most polluting cars from ending up in Central Europe. Member States could prevent this by not allowing non-retrofitted cars to register on their territories;
    • quickly pave the way for zero emission cars;
  • future work needed to involve close and fruitful engagement with the industry.

Closing statement by the Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas:

  • he requested the MS to take all necessary measures to ensure that non-compliant cars were covered by legislation;
  • it was necessary to strengthen the health of the EU citizens and the environment;
  • concrete evidence needed to be considered, which included the work done by the EMIS Committee and inquiries by the EU Commission.

Source: One Policy Place

The simultaneous interpretation of debates provided by the European Parliament serves only to facilitate communication amongst the participants in the meeting. It does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. One Policy Place uses these translations so this text is only a guide and should not be relied on as an official account of the meeting. Only the original speech or the revised written translation of that speech is authentic.

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