German transport minister calls for EU-wide road toll for passenger cars
The German transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, has proposed the introduction of a road toll for passenger cars in the whole European Union, public broadcaster ARD reports in its daily news programme Tagesschau. About one year after failing to establish a similar toll system in Germany, Scheuer has sought support from Germany's government cabinet to endorse an EU-wide scheme in the context of the country's EU Council presidency, which lasts until the end of 2020. However, the minister from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU alliance seems to be struggling to garner support among his government colleagues, Tagesschau says. Scheuer's proposal is reportedly aimed at "all vehicles using the Autobahn [motorway]," except motorcycles and coaches, and could either use a time- or distance-based toll scheme. The toll system could grant rebates to low-emission vehicles and use extra charges on route sections with high traffic volumes, the report says.
Germany's environment ministry rejected Scheuer's ideas. A spokesperson for environment minister Svenja Schulze said an EU-wide road toll would be the wrong signal, especially since Germany will introduce a CO2 price in the transport sector in 2021. A road tax disc, or vignette, would provide drivers with a flat rate that encourages frequent car use and disproportionately burdens those using their vehicle only occasionally, the ministry said. "That doesn't make sense at all," it added.
Scheuer's plans for a German road toll were foiled by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year on grounds of discrimination of citizens of other EU states using German roads, as German drivers would have received a rebate on the vehicle tax to offset the extra charges caused by the toll. The failed draft proposal is expected to cost German taxpayers dearly, with toll system operators suing the state for more than half a billion euros in compensation. Scheuer is due to testify before an investigation committee in the German parliament later this year to assess whether the minister secretly made contracts with the operators before the ECJ's ruling.