Last week, the EU Council adopted its position on a proposed reform of the EU’s car approval system. The position, a compromise brokered by Malta, includes the following provisions:
The Council general approach will have to be negotiated with the European Parliament before becoming law. And that might not be easy because the Parliament was in favor of strengthening the Commission’s ability to enforce the car approval regulations.
Currently, there is a single market for automakers, which can choose any EU member state to certify their cars. That approval is then valid in the whole of the EU. At the market surveillance level, however, there is a still a national system: only the country where the certification was granted can take action. The EU Commission had proposed that it should have greater involvement in the enforcement of the car approval system. This was supported by the EU Parliament, which adopted its position in April 2017.
While the Council’s text accepts more EU oversight, it scrapped or weakened some proposals for centralization within the Commission, according to a report in EU Observer, which wanted to have the power to fine car companies that break EU law, if the national authority fails to act. The Council text restricts the Commission’s ability to do so: the Commission will not be able to fine a cheating car company if the member state responsible for granting the approval has already fined the company, or if it has acquitted the company.
In the discussions that lead to the Council text, Member States removed the obligation to impose a fee on companies to pay for market surveillance activities, saying instead that governments should be free to decide how oversight will be funded.
Tammy Klein is a consultant and strategic advisor providing market and policy intelligence and analysis on transportation fuels to the auto and oil industries, governments, and NGOs. She writes and advises on petroleum fuels, biofuels, alternative fuels, automotive fuels, and fuels policy.