The Brief: The green light for Dieselgate 2?

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

 

Plans to create a central pan-European Union agency to stop another Dieselgate scandal reached the end of the road today in Strasbourg.

MEPs put the brakes on the idea, which gained impetus after it was revealed Volkswagen had routinely cheated emissions tests.

There was little chance of the agency getting the go-ahead and making it across the finishing line in the final non-binding recommendations to the Commission and the Council.

The Commission was lukewarm on the idea. The resources and powers needed to effectively police the bloc are considerable.

Dieselgate and the noxious guff it pumped into our lungs were, in policymakers’ final reckoning, just not worth the money or political effort needed to get the agency off the ground.

The European People’s Party even sent out a press release boasting they had killed off the plan.The agency would have added unnecessary red tape and taken too long to set up, it said.

The USA’s Environmental Protection Agency uncovered Dieselgate. If they hadn’t, many more polluting cars would be on Europe’s roads.

This isn’t just an environmental issue. More than 70,000 Europeans a year die early because of the high levels of nitrogen dioxide in cities. Such deaths may have been prevented if carmakers had played by the rules.

Protections are strengthened in the report, which also calls for new enforcement powers.

But the woman who designed the EPA system that snared VW has repeatedly said that only a central agency could stop another scandal.

Today’s report by the Dieselgate committee admits member states and the Commission knew for more than a decade that nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel cars were much higher on the road than in lab conditions.

No regulator in Europe suspected or searched for the defeat devices used by VW. The Commission failed to control car manufacturers and the national governments that protected them.

That regulators in Europe failed to spot the scam should have given MEPs pause for thought before they slammed the brakes on the new central agency.

The EPA, Europe’s saviour last time round, is not what it once was. US President Donald Trump plans to gut the agency’s budget by nearly a third.

The EU won’t be able to rely on a well-resourced foreign environmental regulator to pick up its slack anymore.

Without an equivalent watchdog of its own, it risks similar scams going undetected in the future.

THE ROUNDUP

A European Parliament report has controversially suggested the Commission should pull any funding from organisations that pursue targets contrary to the “strategic commercial and security policy objectives of the European Union”.

MEPs today also voted in favour of a report covering the impact of palm oil production on deforestation. Check EURACTIV for more later, here’s Greenpeace’s reaction in the meantime.

The Hungarian government today fast tracked a law that threatens the existence of the Central European University. Its dean of students called on the EU to take a stand against Budapest but the Commission seems unmoved by developments. Other European cities are at least lining up to offer the university a new home.

Poland is leading the charge against a Commission proposal that would end a drawn-out antitrust case against Russian energy giant Gazprom that will see it escape heavy fines.

Under-fire Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem was “unanimously” condemned for not turning up at a Parliament plenary session to discuss the Greek bailout. Sources told Jorge Valero that any chance of him completing his mandate as president are all but over.

Fresh disagreement between Athens and the IMF has ended hopes of securing a bailout deal before the end of the week. Ukraine, meanwhile, accepted a $1 billion loan from the international fund.

The British tourism industry wants visa-free travel between the UK and the EU after Brexit, just as Germany’s foreign minister arrived in London for a visit before the talks begin in earnest.

Our latest video on the Maltese presidency of the EU is all about social inclusion. Malta is almost certainly the first presidency to use gender neutral titles and journalists can now get accreditation by choosing “Mx” on its website.

Marine archaeologists are on the hunt for Roman Emperor Caligula’s long-lost party boat, 2,000 years after the last jug of wine was downed on its deck. Maybe future treasure-hunters will seek out the UK’s Brexit yacht

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief.

LOOK OUT FOR…

The European Parliament will debate and vote on its resolution on Brexit negotiating guidelines tomorrow in Strasbourg from 9AM. Expect the usual box office barney from the likes of Verhofstadt and Farage and watch it here.

Views are the author’s. 

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