Parliament to collide with Council over ecopoints?

On 11 February, the European Parliament is expected to adopt a report questioning the Transport Council’s deal on a transitional system for heavy lorry transit through Austria during 2004-2006. According to the Parliament’s Transport Committee, transit restrictions should apply only to three environmentally sensitive Alpine regions, and they should promote environmentally-friendly lorries while phasing out older ones.

For the period 2004-2006 after the expiry of the current ecopoint system on 31 December 2003, theCouncilproposes a simple extension of the current ecopoint system. The total number of ecopoints to be allocated to the Member States would remain more or less at the 2003 level, i.e. at about 40% of the number available in 1991. The most polluting vehicles would be banned from passing Austria, except if they are registered in Greece or Portugal.

TheParliament committeewants to narrow down thescopeof the regulation to cover only transit through certain Alpine passes and other ecologically sensitive areas along trans-European corridors, but not transit through Austria as a whole.

Secondly, it proposes the introduction of aquota systemto promote environmentally-friendly lorries and gradually ban older ones:

  • In 2004, quotas would apply to older lorries, while the transit of cleaner lorries would be unrestricted. As almost half of the transit falls under this latter category, heavy lorry traffic through Austria would increase considerably.
  • From 2005, the oldest and most polluting vehicles would be banned completely, without any exceptions for Greece and Portugal. Quotas would apply to most other vehicles, barring those with positive ecological rating.

In the course of enlargement, these quotas would be extended proportionally by each new Member State and by year.

 

The thorny problem of the extension of Austria’s ecopoint system to control heavy lorry transit through its territory was to be discussed at the Copenhagen Council in December 2002 (seeEURACTIV 11 December 2002). EU leaders, however, kicked it off the agenda immediately and instructed the Council to reach a compromise by the end of 2002.

On 31 December, the Transport Council achieved a compromise, supported by the Commission, but opposed by Austria, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The Parliament’s Transport Committee adopted its final report on the proposal, drafted by Chairman Luciano Caveri (ELDR, I), by 41 votes to 4 on 21 January 2003.

 

If the Parliament adopts the committee’s position, the proposal will go back to the Council for a second reading. Under the codecision procedure, both institutions have to come to an agreement.

The finally established ecopoint system will be valid only as long as the Commission’s proposals on infrastructure pricing have not been adopted. They include a Communication on transport infrastructure charges, due to come out during the first quarter of 2003, and a proposal on amending the “Eurovignette” Directive (Directive 1999/62) which is expected during the first half of 2003.

 

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