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Berlin opens to unblock the crisis of combustion engines that has clouded its relationship with the EU

2023-03-24T19:59:32.169Z


Germany accepts Brussels' proposal to create a new category of 'e-fuel' vehicles, but asks for more guarantees before closing a dispute that has caused a crisis of confidence in the European legislative structure


Germany is opening up to unblock the crisis of combustion engines that has strained its relationship with Brussels and made the summit of heads of state and government rarefied, which was held this Thursday and Friday in the Belgian capital.

Berlin assures that it accepts the proposal of the European Commission to create a new category of vehicles that use the so-called

e-fuels

once the European ban on selling new cars with thermal engines powered by fossil fuels comes into force in 2035.

But the summit has concluded without a solution to the dispute.

Germany's Liberal-controlled transport ministry wants guarantees to back up that promise and says it is still negotiating legal details with the Commission.

The liberals of the FDP, one of the partners of the German coalition - with Social Democrats and Greens - have been blocking, for internal political interests, a key agreement in the European strategy to fight climate change.

The European Executive is anxious to close a dispute that has called into question confidence in the EU's legislative framework.

The Minister of Transport, Volker Wissing, assured on Friday afternoon on German public television that the agreement is "very close".

The chancellor, Olaf Scholz, also said in Brussels, at the end of the summit, that he hopes for a quick solution.

Wissing said in a communication sent to Brussels on Thursday night that he was willing to accept the Commission's proposal not to touch the legislative text on the end of combustion engines agreed, after arduous negotiations, by all parties (Commission, Parliament and Council on behalf of the Twenty-seven) at the end of October.

Both the European Executive and the countries most critical of Germany, starting with France, had flatly refused to retouch the text, since it would not only have forced a return to point zero and renegotiate everything in all the institutions —a process that lasts for years —, but rather, warned capitals such as Paris or Madrid, endangered European competitiveness in terms of electric cars against rivals, especially China and the United States, which already have a strong advantage.

In exchange for not revising the text on cars, Berlin wants more guarantees that, from 2035, the sale of vehicles that use synthetic fuels will be allowed, says Der Spiegel, which says it has seen

the

German response.

To this end, Germany asks the Commission to commit to presenting, by next autumn, a "delegated act" on how vehicles powered by

e-fuel

can contribute to the EU goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse.

Delegated acts are a non-legislative device available to the Commission, at the proposal of the European Parliament or Council, to "complete or modify certain non-essential elements of a legislative act".

The Commission had previously proposed to Germany to accept the cars with

e-fuel

, as long as the manufacturers establish specific mechanisms to ensure that, in no case, these vehicles will be able to use fossil fuels after 2035.

"I know that journalism is also an entertainment business and that they think it's really stupid that we just agree," Scholz said in Brussels.

"But that will happen, and quite quickly," he added.

Wissing maintains that Germany agrees with the fundamental agreement, according to which only new zero-emission vehicles can be registered from 2035. “We are not questioning the objective of allowing only climate-neutral vehicles from 2035. We have never done that”, emphasized the liberal minister.

What Berlin intends is not to exclude any technological option, in reference to internal combustion engines, in which Germany is the leader.

If these can work with

e-fuels

, which are produced with renewable energy and are climate neutral, they should not be prohibited, adds the minister, who insists that the engines must have sensors installed that avoid the use of fossil fuels.

Critics of synthetic fuels recall that their production requires a large amount of energy, that they are scarce and that more is needed in sectors such as aviation or maritime transport, which are difficult to electrify.

The German refusal to ratify the agreement, which came by surprise at the beginning of March, has strained the already complicated relationship between the three government parties in Germany.

The German Minister of Economy, the green Robert Habeck, assured on Friday morning during a visit to Denmark that in his opinion the dispute had already been resolved.

The Commission has limited itself to confirming receipt of the German proposal, on which it has not commented for the moment, since it is studying it.

At the close of the first day of the summit, the president of the European Executive, Ursula von der Leyen, also German, declared herself "confident" in the possibility of a quick agreement due to the "will of both parties to resolve the issue within the spectrum of the agreement provisional agreement reached between the Council and the European Parliament”.

A speed that is essential, Von der Leyen stressed in his appearance before the press: "Time is key in this case, because [the agreement on combustion engines] is an important pillar within our Fit for 55 package", he remembered Thursday night.

When the agreement reached in a

trilogue

format (European Commission, Parliament and Council) was announced at the end of October, all the parties had concluded a "historic" text, as it was the first legislative pact within the new European strategy to reinforce the fight against climate change, which seeks the EU to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 -compared to 1990 levels- and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

Although the issue was not officially on the agenda of the Heads of State and Government in Brussels this Thursday and Friday, as each of the leaders consulted stressed, the German

nein

was the great ghost who planned for an appointment, for the rest, until So quite harmonious.

The fear goes further, as several European leaders and even the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, made clear, of the specific agreement on cars, however important this may be.

The concern that has gripped Brussels since the first and unexpected German rejection is that this sets a dangerous precedent that calls into question the entire structure of legislative pacts of the European institutions.

"The entire European decision-making architecture would collapse if we acted like this," Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins warned as soon as he arrived in the Belgian capital.

Metsola made clear his concern with the German maneuvers.

In a letter sent this week to the Swedish Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, whose country holds the current presidency of the EU, the Maltese lawyer warned that the delays in the final approval of the agreement, something that should have been a mere formality, they can “undermine the credibility of the European legislative process”.

And it can also, Metsola wrote in her letter, which she has been able to consult EL PAÍS, “erode trust” between the negotiating parties and cause “uncertainty” around the agreed commitments in legislative matters.

The president of the European Parliament confirmed her concern during her appearance before the press on Thursday, after attending the summit of heads of state and government, where she stressed the importance of "legislative predictability."

“Anything that seeks to undermine or reduce the legislative predictability that we need as the European Union is something that we will always caution against,” Metsola said.

“If we are asked to legislate in a specific area, we must do it.

And if we do, we must present results (…) we cannot go back on agreements, because the credibility of the legislative process is at stake, ”she warned, adding:“ I hope it doesn't happen again.

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Source: elparis

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