The Brief – Fast and Furious: Brussels Drift

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The Commission couldn’t have picked a more smoggy week in Brussels to unveil new emissions cuts and hit national capitals with air quality legal cases.

Transport contributes a lot to air pollution levels and although its share has dropped in recent years, the sector remains hugely problematic. I only need to mention the dreaded Dieselgate to prove that point.

So the EU’s recent efforts to regulate emissions up until 2030 are meant to bring cars, trucks and, eventually, buses to heel and help hit its ambitious Paris Agreement-compliant 40% target.

But a fresh round of legal cases against six countries, accused of consistently flouting air quality rules, shows that Brussels has its work cut out. The EU machine has to move up a gear though because progress is far too slow.

Top EU energy boss Maros Sefcovic admitted that new truck rules were “long overdue” both from an environmental and competition point of view. And the member states hit with legal action were on their last, final, ‘this-time-I-mean-it’ warning.

So it’s time to trot out the old adage of this Commission: ‘big on big things, small on small things’, because the quality of the air we breathe is without a doubt one of the big things.

Draft emission reduction targets from both light and heavy vehicles have already been widely criticised and MEPs wasted no time to announce they will drastically alter the Berlaymont’s proposals.

Maybe it’s a good thing that the next four incoming EU presidency holders are Austria, Romania, Finland and Croatia, four countries not exactly known for their lucrative car industries or powerful lobby groups.

Germany takes control in July 2020, just when parts of the car and truck laws will probably be revised, so we’ll see how much influence Audi, VW et al will be able to exert then.

Internal combustion engines are dated and doomed and the sooner they are consigned to museums like Autoworld the better. Germany’s federal court confirmed earlier today that some areas can ban diesels and that it’ll be a legal requirement in the most at-risk places.

It’s a sea change in Europe’s car kingdom, but it’s no surprise – we seem to follow where China leads these days and Beijing is motoring towards banning petrol and diesel engines, although no timeframe has been announced.

In the meantime, Villo bikes are offering three months free until Sunday, so sign up and cycle to work instead when the weather is nice. It’s probably also quicker than sealing yourself in a steel box for a few hours every day.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

The EU-US trade dispute debate continues. At yesterday’s Sofia summit European leaders agreed on a “united approach” to the Iran deal and Trump’s plans to impose tariffs: Europe rules out generous quotas as a solution and demands a “permanent” and “unlimited” exemption.

France’s Ambassador to Washington had a rather bewildered reaction to Trump’s Iran approach…

Britain’s departure will have a major impact on the EU’s regions and cities. The Committee of the Regions wants the EU to consider a stabilisation fund. The Commission meanwhile is determined to protect the integrity of its Cohesion Policy.

Austria’s EU Council Presidency takeover is around the corner. Take a sneak peek at what they plan for their time in power.

Kosovo is not Catalonia, Hashim Thaci told absent Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, who did not want to share the same table at the Sofia summit and boycotted the meeting.

Ahead of controversial snap elections, Turkey’s president will hold a rally in the Bosnia’s capital city to drum up support among the Turkish diaspora.

In a sign of protest, hundreds of truck drivers blocked roads across Bulgaria. They fear job losses due to the EU’s Mobility Package backed by France, Germany and other higher-wage states.

To close off the week, have a bash at this caption competition, involving a spectacular photo of Juncker from the Sofia summit.

Look out for…

Belgian Pride will sweep the streets of Brussels tomorrow. Look out for Commission VP Frans Timmermans joining the festivities. Monday is a Bank Holiday so the Brief will be back on Tuesday.

Views are the author’s

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