Forty-five MEPs were voted into the European Parliament’s new inquiry committee tasked with uncovering potential failures of EU institutions to disclose information related to the dieselgate emissions scandal.
The temporary committee will meet for one year to investigate the European Commission and EU member states’ involvement in doctored vehicle emissions reporting following Volkswagen’s cheating scandal that erupted last year.
MEPs today (21 January) approved members of the inquiry committee in a plenary session. The committee includes 14 full members from the EPP group, 12 S&D MEPs, five ECR, four ALDE, 3 Green, 3 GUE/NGL, 2 EFDD and 2 from Marine Le Pen’s group ENF.
The MEPs elected to the inquiry committee were plucked from the Parliament’s Environment (ENVI), Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and Transport (TRAN) Committees.
Substitute members were also elected to the committee, although they will not have voting rights.
MEPs voted in December to set up the special inquiry committee to investigate failure to oversee emissions tests and introduce new testing procedures.
The committee will also look into whether the Commission and national governments knew about Volkswagen’s use of so-called ‘defeating devices’ to cheat on emissions tests before the US Environmental Protection Agency uncovered the scandal.
Commission spokesperson Lucia Caudet said in a statement, “The Commission is more than ready to work with the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry. Defeat devices are banned in EU law. Member States have a standing obligation to enforce this ban. The policing in the area is the responsibility of the appropriate national enforcement authorities.”
Inquiry committees in the European Parliament are rare. In 2014, a similar group was called to look into the Luxleaks scandal that unveiled evidence of tax evasion in Luxembourg.
Dutch MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE), who was elected to the new committee, said “No stone should be left unturned to discover the truth about this environmental and public health scandal.”
Parliament sources mentioned Gerbrandy, French MEP Francoise Grossetete (EPP) and Belgian MEP Kathleen van Brempt (S&D) as possible contenders to become president of the committee.
MEPs in the committee will also elect four vice-chairs.
A parliament spokesperson said the inquiry committee hasn’t scheduled its first meeting yet, although it is slated to take place in the first week of February.
Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout (Greens) said he thought most groups involved in the inquiry were committed to investigating the dieselgate scandal. But some members of the EPP had originally rebuffed the call to open an inquiry committee.
“The EPP has been objecting to this inquiry committee from the start. But I really hope now that it’s there, they’re joining the group to get work done,” Eickhout said.
Eickhout said he’d like the committee to invite EU Internal Market Commissioner El?bieta Bie?kowska (EPP) to address the group, as well as former Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani (EPP), now a vice president of the European Parliament.
Commission officials from DG GROW and DG ENVI, as well as national type approval authorities, and research organisations in charge of emissions testing should also be invited to speak before the committee, Eickhout said.
“The EPP Group will be vigilant to ensure that the mandate is respected and that the committee does not become a diesel fuel trial,” French MEP Francoise Grossetete (EPP) said in a statement.
“This inquiry should not turn into an inquisition court, but instead come up with ideas for solutions,” she said.
Commissioner Bie?kowska has said the Commission will not open an investigation into emissions cheating until EU member states have completed their own inquiries.
The Commission and EU member states struck a deal last year that will still allow diesel cars to emit double the legal limit of pollutants starting in 2017. The limit will sink to a lower level in 2019.
MEPs balked at that agreement.
In December, MEPs in the Environment Committee (ENVI) rejected the Commission and member states’ proposal. A plenary vote on the agreement was set to take place this week, but was postponed until February.
Greg Archer, clean vehicles director of NGO Transport & Environment said the Parliament inquiry committee should investigate “whether the testing services and national type approval authorities responsible for testing and authorising vehicles have always operated fairly and transparently.”
A spokesperson for the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) said, “The automobile industry recognises the importance of clarifying the issues and is ready to work with the committee should this be required.”