Commission and member states must take political responsibility for Dieselgate
The European Parliament today debated the final recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector (EMIS) that was established in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
For a year, the Committee heard evidence from representatives of the car manufacturers, lobbyists, experts and Commission officials, including the current President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani.
Neoklis Sylikiotis, GUE/NGL shadow rapporteur for EMIS, said that the inquiry committee found serious political failings leading up to the scandal:
“The Commission and member states knew very well since 2013 – upon the release of the Joint Research Center (JRC) report – about the use of defeat devices to cheat on NOx emissions, but they didn't do anything.”
“The inaction was not due to lack of information or lack of necessary funding. The delays were the result of pressure from the car industry lobby and the Commission’s lack of political will to make the protection of public health a priority.”
“We denounce the Commission and member states for not taking political responsibility for the scandal due to their failure in implementing EU law and impose sanctions on car manufacturers. Those responsible for the gaps in legislation and the impunity afforded to multinationals should be held to account.”
“The case of Volkswagen is part of a larger scandal affecting the industry,” Sylikiotis added.
German MEP Cornelia Ernst lamented that the final report of the Committee did not recognise the right of consumers to receive compensation:
“I have rarely attended an event where so many unrestrained and shameless lies were uttered as in some sittings of the EMIS Committee. Car manufacturers and officials ducked responsibility.”
“Organisations like Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) that issued warnings about the potential cheating were like lone callers in the desert and therefore deserve our thanks. Consumers were betrayed for years yet they are not receiving compensation.”
“We need tough rules, controls and penalties as well as a strong European watchdog. The use of diesel fuel should be a thing of the past. What we need is fundamental change in the automotive sector before it’s too late.”
Separately, MEPs debated a report about legislation for a new system of type approval and market surveillance for the automotive industry. The Dieselgate scandal brought urgency for a more robust mechanism than the one currently in place, which was last revised in 2007.
GUE/NGL Rapporteur for the file, Dennis de Jong, expressed dissatisfaction with the proposals in the report:
“If a car is type-approved in one member state it is fit to drive throughout the EU and this is a positive thing for car manufacturers.”
“However, if cheating happens it escapes detection by the authorities. The Commission and member states have failed to act despite knowing this. The Commission did nothing after the CARS 2020 action plan nor have adequate inspections taken place.”
“We need a body that can closely monitor adequate implementation of the legislation to avoid recurrence of cheating. I do not think the proposals in consideration reflect the steps needed to solve the problem and therefore our group will vote against this report.”
Finnish MEP Merja Kyllönen agreed with the need for a new agency to monitor violations:
“Nothing was done when the cheating came to light because the Commission believed the lobbyists when they said that thousands of jobs would be lost and that jobs would leave the EU. Consumers paid the price, with many falling ill from the consequences of pollution.”
“When an EU citizen violates a rule they get punished, but when member states or big corporations do the same, the EU is very lenient on them and this shouldn’t be the case,” Kyllönen concluded.