In view of the new road toll for private vehicles foreseen in Germany, citizens have turned to the European Parliament and have raised concerns that this ‘infrastructural levy’ might discriminate EU citizens who do not reside in Germany.
Following the adoption by the German authorities of a law introducing a road charging scheme for cars, passed in parallel with a law ensuring that vehicles registered in Germany should benefit from a deduction of the road charge from the annual vehicle tax bill, the European Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Germany on 18 June 2015.
This was the first step of a procedure under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) against Germany for – as the Commission opined – breaching EU law by indirect discrimination based on nationality.
In a second stage, on 28 April 2016, the European Commission issued a Reasoned Opinion and called on Germany to bring its legislation into line with EU law within two months.
Despite numerous exchanges with the German authorities, the Commission considered that its fundamental concerns on the matter had not been addressed by Germany. Therefore, on 29 September 2016, the Commission referred Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU.
However, the Commission announced on 1 December 2016 that both parties had agreed on a solution to put an end to the legal dispute over the planned introduction of a road charge for passenger cars in Germany, arguing that the agreement was upholding the fundamental right of European citizens not to be discriminated against on the basis of their nationality. Consequently, the Commission would put the infringement procedure ‘on hold’ until further notice.
Following the Commission’s above mentioned announcement, and following numerous parliamentary questions to the Commission on this topic since 2013, Members of the European Parliament submitted, on 7 December 2016, a question for oral answer to the European Commission (O-000152/2016) in which they questioned the Commission’s conviction that the new system was ‘non-discriminatory’ and ‘fully in line with EU law’.
Following this, the European Parliament’s plenary held a debate on this question on 15 February 2017, and subsequently, on 15 March 2017, adopted a resolution on the Commission’s approval of Germany’s revised plan to introduce a road toll. In this resolution, it is argued that the scheme would breach EU law by allowing German drivers to deduct toll costs from their vehicle tax, even though foreigners cannot do so.
The European Commission website provides further information on the European legislation regarding EU road transport policy and Road charging. There is detailed information on Road Infrastructure Charging – Heavy Goods Vehicles and on Road Infrastructure Charging – Private Vehicles.
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