Germany applies brake on scrap car proposal

Political storm looms over EU end of life vehicles debate as government decides to block deal

Germany will try to stop EU environment ministers reaching an agreement on a proposed directive on recycling old cars when they meet in Luxembourg tomorrow, it emerged this afternoon. An official for the German government confirmed to ENDS Daily that Germany would not agree to the text on the "end of life vehicles" directive that ministers agreed in principle last December.

The scrap car proposal - which would make car manufacturers financially responsible for recycling and disposing of old vehicles - is sure to be a political flashpoint at the two-day ministerial as many countries are opposed to any changes to the current draft. Germany revealed its doubts over the proposal at the last Council of environment ministers in March when it persuaded its EU partners to delay a decision on the dossier for three months, but it agreed to a joint statement that a formal decision on the issue would be taken this week (ENDS Daily 11 March).

However it has been widely suspected that Germany would try once again to block the common position as chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sided with the car industry which opposes the directive. Mr Schröder - a former director of Volkswagen - is understood to have put intense pressure on his environment minister Jürgen Trittin to stop the common position.

Mr Trittin will be in the awkward situation tomorrow of opposing the directive which he recently told his EU counterparts he supported (ENDS Daily 22 June). His embarrassment will be increased by the fact that, as Germany currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, he will be chairing the meeting.

Germany will not be able to block the common position on its own, as a majority vote, rather than unanimity, is sufficient for it to go through. However, some other car producing countries may support Germany's attempts to further delay a decision. The dossier must, in any case, return for a second reading by the European Parliament once the ministers have adopted a common position. The EU assembly has joint decision-making powers on the proposal and voted to maintain the crucial producer responsibility clause during its first reading (ENDS Daily 12 February).

On learning of the German position today, the NGO coalition European Environmental Bureau (EEB) immediately sent a letter to all EU environment ministers calling on them not to follow Germany's lead. The EEB claims that postponing a common position would be a "blow to the credibility of the Environment Council" and would be a victory for industrial lobbying. "Giving in to this pressure at this stage would mean that environment ministers are not able to enforce environmentally sound behaviour upon one of the most crucial industries in Europe," the group said.

Follow Up:
German environment ministry, tel: +49 228 3050; EU Council of Ministers, tel: + 32 2 285 6111.

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