The German transport minister has pledged to keep the country's motorways free-of-charge, rejecting a statement by the in-coming EU transport commissioner that she will strive to harmonise road charging in Europe. Franz Müntefering this week rebuffed comments made by Loyola de Palacio in written answers to MEPs on policy matters (ENDS Daily 16 August). Amongst these, Ms de Palacio said she supported a "gradual reform" and harmonisation of the way countries charge for road use so that social and environmental as well as economic costs of road transport are paid by the user. This is already the preferred policy option of the European Commission, as detailed in a white paper published last year (ENDS Daily 22 July 1998). Although there is still no official proposal for an EU-wide road charging system, Commission officials are currently studying how such a system could be introduced, initially just for freight traffic. The Social Democrat politician, Mr Müntefering, indicated he was totally opposed to the idea of harmonising EU motorway tolls. "Even if EU commissioners want something different, nothing changes - we will continue to decide for ourselves that German motorways remain free of charge," he said. This reiterates the position of the country's previous government (ENDS Daily 24 July 1998), although there are moves in some German states to introduce regional tolls for trucks.
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