Missed opportunity on EU truck tolls
From Mr Jos Dings (Published: 29/04/05)
Sir, European Union transport ministers have not “endorsed plans to raise EU tolls for trucks” as your article suggests (“EU ends transport jam with toll rise”, April 22). In fact the agreement of April 21 is not a plan to impose higher tolls or even encourage their introduction.
The “Eurovignette” directive is rather an evolving set of rules that member states have to comply with if they want to introduce truck tolls. But crucially, the main reason certain member states (mostly those on Europe’s periphery) argue for this issue to be legislated at EU level is to restrict centrally located “transit” countries from introducing high tolls.
In the current proposal, one such restriction is that member states have been forbidden from using tolls to recoup the €170bn cost of environmental and health damage caused by trucks in Europe each year. This is a short-sighted approach because if this money were used, for example, to cut labour taxes or fund innovation, the European economy would get a much-needed boost.
And at a time when European heads of state have been scratching their heads looking for ways to boost competitiveness and create jobs, this compromise agreement looks like a missed opportunity. If European leaders are not convinced, we would like to jog their memory. The EU Sustainable Development Strategy, which they approved at the Gothenburg summit in 2001, promised to ensure that, “by 2005, prices for different modes of transport reflect their costs to society”.
It is now the turn of the European parliament to consider the proposal. It has previously requested the inclusion of ecological and health costs in tolls and it is in Europe’s economic interest that it continues to do so.
Jos Dings, Director, European Federation for Transport and Environment