Scrap car directive "back on track"

Germany fails to win support for re-think, but car makers step up pressure for changes

Proposed EU legislation to make car makers financially responsible for scrap vehicle recycling looks set to be finally approved by national environment ministers next week. Germany is now ready to accept the compromise position it blocked at the last Environment Council in March, senior diplomats in Brussels told ENDS Daily today. However, with manufacturers vowing to fight for changes "right up to the bitter end" the shape of the end-of-life vehicles directive could hang in the balance until the last moment.

Prospects for the law passing in its current form received a significant boost yesterday, when no EU member state spoke out against it at a meeting of senior national government representatives to prepare for the Council. Earlier this week Germany's environment minister Jürgen Trittin wrote to his 14 counterparts stating that he would not suggest delays or revisions, but hinting that some other states might be considering such action.

The European Commission's environment department, which largely drew up the directive, has accused Germany of trying to get another leading car-making country to shoulder responsibility for shelving it. A storm of protest followed the EU presidency's last-minute withdrawal of the item from the council agenda in March, after German president Gerhardt Schröder was personally lobbied by Ferdinand Piëch, head of car manufacturer Volkswagen's board, on which he also once served (ENDS Daily 10 March).

But a diplomat attending yesterday's meeting suggested that if such a tactic by Germany existed, it appeared to have failed. "If the presidency still has major problems with the dossier, other countries might have been prepared to offer support," he said. "But none of us is prepared to carry the blame for taking it on ourselves."

The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (Acea) today vowed to step up its lobbying of national governments over the next week. It is particularly enraged about a proposed requirement that manufacturers pay for scrapping all cars on the road when the directive takes effect in 2003. "At 150m vehicles, this would be financially crippling," Acea director for parliamentary affairs Didrik de Thibault told ENDS Daily. "We are only now starting to get our message round environment ministers to heads of states themselves."

"Most member countries are now adamant about sticking to the present text. Negotiations on this have been long and tough," another national diplomat retorted. However, he added, "there is no accounting for what the ministers may do over lunch."

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111; Acea, tel: +32 2 732 5550.

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