Juncker supports a EU car testing agency but faces opposition from big countries

MEPs continue to pave the way for the final vote in the European Parliament on establishing a EU agency to spot check cars on the road. After the environment committee’s vote in favour, the Dieselgate inquiry committee has now also backed a car surveillance agency. Meanwhile European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker indicated his support for the establishment of a EU testing agency to avoid another Dieselgate scandal. However, obstacles remain as some member states are reluctant.

Last week the final report of the Dieselgate inquiry committee (EMIS) pointed out that national regulators failed to enforce EU rules and to check new cars thoroughly enough to detect defeat devices. The scandal saw manufacturers cheating on emissions and, consequently, at least 29 million dangerously polluting cars and vans were allowed on European roads; these continue to be sold.

T&E’s clean vehicles and air quality manager, Julia Poliscanova, said: ‘So long as enforcement continues to be the exclusive responsibility of national authorities, collusion with domestic carmakers will thrive and dirty diesels will continue poisoning the public. The committee has correctly identified that Europe urgently needs a body to oversee carmakers and the national authorities paralysed by regulatory capture.’

In addition, the president of the Commission indicated his support for an EU agency in a high-profile presentation of a white paper on the future of Europe. Speaking in the parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker said that a European supervision of national type approval authorities would add value. He added that carmakers using defeat devices to mislead consumers ‘would have to pay damages everywhere’. The creation of such a EU testing agency would fall under the so-called ‘Doing Much More Together’ scenario of the white paper, which calls for greater cooperation among the remaining 27 EU member states so that ‘drivers can rely on an EU agency to enforce rules’.

The Commission’s intervention followed a disappointing meeting of EU industry ministers where member states, including Germany and Italy, continued to resist a fast and progressive reform. Nevertheless, the Maltese presidency aims at presenting a final text to the Competitiveness Council that will meet at the end of May.

Neither the vote on the final EMIS report, expected in early April, or Juncker’s commitment are legally binding – unlike the legislative reforms on type approval, which will be voted on by the whole parliament plenary in the coming weeks.

Julia Poliscanova concluded: ‘At the heart of the Dieselgate scandal in Europe lies a testing system that is shrouded in secrecy and cronyism. All MEPs must now follow their EMIS colleagues and demand Europe’s testing authorities put public health above the economic interests of national car champions by establishing an independent agency to oversee vehicle approvals.’

While parliament's internal market (IMCO) committee argued that a European oversight body would only add costs and bureaucracy, such an agency could be funded by manufacturers paying a €10 charge on each new vehicle sold. The reform of the Type Approval Framework Regulation is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to strengthen the European vehicle and component testing system, T&E said.