EU states shelve debate on green road charges

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A compromise on proposed environmental charges for trucks tabled by the Czech EU Presidency has failed to convince the Union’s member states, many of which are arguing that the recession is not the right time to impose extra costs on the transport sector.

During a public debate on 30 March, EU-27 transport ministers still disagreed over the proposed revision of the Eurovignette Directive, which would allow member states to charge trucks for the noise, pollution and congestion they cause.

A group of countries including Germany, Italy, the UK, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Ireland, Greece and Estonia argued that the revision should take into account the current economic and financial crisis, and shy away from imposing extra costs on the sector at a time of economic downturn. 

Meanwhile, France, Hungary and Sweden, which assumes the EU presidency from the Czechs in July, argued that the current economic slowdown should not be used as an excuse to delay the plans, as the proposed measures would not be immediately applied in any case. 

Despite a Czech EU Presidency compromise proposal earlier this month, congestion charging remains the Achilles’ heel of the quest to reach a swift agreement before June, the presidency’s deadline for finding a political agreement on the dossier. 

Peripheral countries like Portugal, Malta, the Baltic countries and Ireland are opposed to the plans in principle, while others, like Italy, the Netherlands, Finland and Bulgaria, are willing to accept congestion charges, provided that they are applied to passanger cars as well. 

The presidency’s compromise tried to bridge the gap by proposing to postpone the introduction of congestion charges by four years.

As many national positions remain controversial, the ministers invited the Council’s preparatory bodies “to continue examination of the proposal,” particularly addressing the scope of the directive, congestion charging (including maximum chargeable amounts), the action plan, earmarking and peripheral areas.

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