German Liberals Stab Dutch Liberal in the Back
The Free Democrats derail Jan Huitema’s plan for clean cars.
German liberals have thrown a wrench in the EU’s plan to phase out diesel and petrol cars, arguing a 2035 deadline is too strict.
“It is contradictory when the EU Commission calls for high climate protection targets on the one hand, but on the other hand makes it more difficult to achieve these targets through overambitious regulation,” transport minister Volker Wissing told the Bundestag on Friday.
A vote of EU transport ministers planned for Tuesday has been postponed. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is attending a German cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss their about-face.
Wissing’s change of heart is a stab in the back of fellow liberal Jan Huitema, who steered the car legislation through the European Parliament. Wissing’s FDP and Huitema’s VVD are the fourth- and fifth-largest parties in the Renew group.
Germany already got two concessions
The transport council’s approval was supposed to be a formality after parliamentary rapporteur Huitema got all three EU institutions on the same page in October. (Disclosure: I am a member of Huitema’s VVD.)
New cars and vans would not be allowed to emit greenhouse gasses starting in 2035. The European Commission had proposed 2030 and the European Parliament wanted to ban the combustion engine outright. To get car-producing member states like Germany, Italy and Poland on board, the deadline was pushed back five years, trucks were exempt and combustion engines would still be allowed to run on synthetic, but not fossil, fuels.
A clause was even added to the final text to confirm a role for e-fuels.
340 out of 640 parliamentarians supported Huitema’s compromise, as did the Commission.
Yet e-fuels are the hill the Free Democrats (FDP) have chosen to die on. Wissing will not sign off until the European Commission has made a concrete proposal for their future.
Journalists believe FDP is posturing
“We need e-fuels,” Wissing told ARD television, “because there is no alternative to operating our existing fleet in a climate-neutral manner.”
His party leader, Christian Lindner, agreed: “This technology option must be preserved.”
But the European Commission and the European Parliament have already said it will be.
The consensus in German media is that the FDP is posturing in the wake of poor election results.