Germany to challenge fuel tax concessions

North Rhine Westphalia seeks EU veto on "unfair subsidies" in France, Belgium, Netherlands

North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, is to ask the European Commission to overrule recent fuel tax cuts in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, as illegal state subsidies it has emerged. European affairs minister Detlev Samland announced the initiative on Friday. Government officials were today unable to confirm whether a formal complaint had yet been submitted.

The state government's move will further deepen divisions between EU countries over how to respond to the fuel tax protests that swept Europe in September. Under pressure from its own hauliers to halt planned rises in fuel taxes under the ecotax programme, Germany's federal government has already criticised several of its neighbours for making "wild" tax cuts and threatening a "downwards spiral" in duty rates (ENDS Daily 21 September).

According to the state government, duty cuts made in France, Belgium and the Netherlands have given their hauliers an unfair competitive advantage. Dutch truckers, for example, can now run their vehicles at a euros (DM10,000) per year advantage over German firms, a spokesperson for North-Rhine Westphalia state premier Wolfgang Clement told ENDS Daily today.

Another government source said that North-Rhine Westphalia was seeking support for its action from other German states and had received positive responses from Rhineland Palatinate and Saarland. All three states are situated on Germany's western edge, bordering the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

Follow Up:
North-Rhine Westphalia government, tel: +49 211 82701.

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