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Commission, Germany agree road toll compromise

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Commission, Germany agree road toll compromise

Dobrindt - Bulc - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission and Germany finally reached agreement Thursday on a solution to end a long-running legal dispute over the planned introduction of a road charge for passenger cars in Germany.

Meeting in the margins of a meeting of transport ministers, Commissioner Violeta Bulc agreed a compromise with German minister Alexander Dobrindt which upholds the right of European citizens not to be discriminated against on the basis of nationality, and also ensures road infrastructure is financed in a fairer way and helps the transition to low-emission mobility.

Ms Bulc thanked Mr Dobrindt for agreeing changes to laws that would ensure the German car toll system remains in line with EU legislation: "This is also an important first step towards our plans to create an EU-wide road charging system that will benefit the EU's Single Market," she said.

Mr Dobrindt said the toll charge was fair and just: "It ensures that all drivers contribute adequately to the financing of our motorways. With infrastructure charges, we will strengthen the user pays principle and facilitate the transition from infrastructure financing through taxes to financing through road charges."

The Commission initiated formal infringement proceedings against Germany over the planned introduction of the Infrastructure Law ("PkW Maut") in June 2015, with the case being referred to the Court of Justice of the EU on 29 September 2016.

Following the agreement, the German Federal Government will now adopt the amendments to the PkW Maut and to the Vehicle Tax Law ("KfZ Steuer") and pass them on to the co-legislators in Germany. Once adopted, the amendments will remove any discrimination based on nationality and incentivise the use of environmentally friendly cars.

The details are that first, the Infrastructure Law establishing the PkW Maut will be amended in order to introduce five categories of vehicles (instead of three currently), which will allow for a better differentiation of the road charge on the basis of environmental criteria. The price of short-term vignettes – which are typically bought by foreign drivers – will decrease in relation to the annual rate and be set below a 1:7.3 ratio. For the most environmentally friendly cars, a short-term vignette (for 10 days) should cost only € 2.50, which is significantly less than €5 originally proposed in 2015. Second, the vehicle tax is once again amended in order to ensure that the most environmentally friendly vehicles are given particularly favourable treatment in the annual vehicle tax.

As a result, German motorways will remain easily accessible to all European citizens and especially cross-border commuters. The price of short-term vignettes – typically bought by non-resident drivers – will be substantially lowered in relation to the annual rate, while the vehicle tax reduction will specifically reward the cleanest vehicles.

The EU executive will now put its threatened infringement procedure "on hold" until further notice. It will be formally closed when the amending German legislation taking into account the Commission's legal concerns is adopted and promulgated.


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