The Parliament's transport committee voted this morning (12 April), at second reading, on the so-called 'Eurovignette Directive', which would enable EU countries to set up road charging systems to make trucks pay for their "external costs" such as pollution and noise.
The report drafted by Belgian Socialist MEP Saïd El Khadraoui was adopted, with amendments, by 26 in favour, one against and 11 abstentions.
The vote sets the Parliament's views miles away from EU member states on how to use the financial revenue from green road tolls.
The Parliament insists on earmarking such revenue for improving the sustainability of the transport sector, for example by investing in research into cleaner engines and alternative freight transport modes.
But the Council – representing EU member states – merely proposes that the funds raised "should" be earmarked for programmes that improve the sustainability of the transport system.
EU countries, it insisted, "retain ultimate discretion on how to spend these funds".
While the European Commission would have preferred "should" to be replaced with "shall", it has endorsed the Council's first-reading vote.
Road freight sector balks at new tax
The EU ministers' position was criticised by road freight operators, who saw it as backing an additional tax that will increase the final price of goods.
Earmarking the revenue had already been discussed at a three-way meeting between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in March, but no agreement was reached.
In addition to earmarking tax revenue, lawmakers want national finance ministers to declare toll revenues and how they are used. MEPs are asking for 15% of the money to be earmarked for trans-European TEN-T projects.
Acknowledging that the dossier is very complex and politically sensitive, Parliament's draftsman El Khadraoui said he believes that the lawmakers' vote represents "a balanced compromise which I think is a good basis for improving the Council's position".
But "if we do not manage to get a balanced agreement with the Council, we will need to go to conciliation," he added, speaking to the press after the vote.