The European Union’s executive branch, the European Commission, says it is drafting formal legislation giving EU automakers more flexibility when assessing the impact of real-life emissions tests on their vehicles.
The move comes after the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in December scrapped a regulation that gave manufacturers these rights. Judges said it had not been approved legally, having been ordered by the Commission acting alone.
Instead, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the EU executive’s Commissioner for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises, has said a new similar law will be proposed as primary legislation requiring formal approval from the European Parliament (EP) and the EU Council of Ministers, representing member states.
This would remove the ECJ’s objection to the earlier regulation. However, there is a “potential problem,” Bieńkowska says.
The court said the current regulations could stay in effect until a new replacement law was passed formally, but only if it was drafted, debated and approved by this December. If the Commission failed to do this, strict test-result rules would come into force – something EU automakers want to avoid. With European Parliament elections due in May, Bieńkowska told an EP environment committee meeting that this was a “tight timeframe.”
As a result, the Commission probably also will appeal the December ruling, she says: “Experts say legal grounds justify an appeal.”
If this happens, the executive would have more time to get a new law onto the EU statute book. However, Kathleen Van Brempt, a Belgian social democratic member of parliament, opposed the appeal, saying the Commission never should have passed such a regulation without democratically elected representatives’ permission in the first place: “This was not democratic. You are changing the rules with a methodology that is completely unacceptable.”
She called on the EU executive to go further and write new flexible testing rules into a new Euro 7 package of emissions standards and propose that instead (the EU currently operates under a set of Euro 6 emissions standards).
“You will find a lot of support in the parliament” for such an approach, she told Bieńkowska.
And indeed, Bieńkowska confirms the Commission is assessing a new set of Euro 7 emissions rules, although she did not say when they would be proposed. EU ministers will discuss a “road map towards clean vehicles” in March at a meeting in Craiova, Romania.
– with Sara Lewis in Brussels