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Germany to introduce road tax for foreigners from 2016

Nov 25, 2014
The German Transport Minister, Alexander Dobrint, has unveiled plans to introduce a toll on foreign-registered vehicles using the country’s roads from 2016, dismissing concerns in Brussels and neighbouring countries that the plan could breach European anti-discrimination laws.

The tax will be applied to all vehicles above 3.5 tonnes and will include cars and could even be extended to motorcycles. While foreign drivers will need to purchase a vignette to use the roads, German drivers, would see that cost offset by a tax discount. Shortly after the announcement, the European Commission stated that, it generally welcomed plans to fund infrastructure investment from levies on road users, however, it warned that a tax targeting a specific group could be seen as discriminatory and therefore be contested.

During a meeting between FEDEMAC and Siim Kallas, the current Commissioner for Transport said that the Commission will be closely following the developments in Germany, in order to insure that Community law is respected and no discrimination against non-Germans occurs. Germany has had a distance-based toll system for trucks for years, but is one of a few European countries that doesn't charge cars on its highways. Most of its neighbours, including France, Austria, Switzerland, Poland and the Czech Republic, have toll systems for private cars that don't distinguish between foreigners and nationals.

Dobrindt said that calculations had shown the measure could generate about 600 million euros of extra revenue, to be invested in the maintenance and construction of Germany's roads. The minister said that, if implemented, the new road toll would correct what he described as a "fairness gap", an apparent reference to the fact that German drivers have to pay road tolls when driving in neighbouring countries such as Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Currently drivers from those countries have to pay no such toll in Germany.

However, even German legal experts expressed doubt that the government could make the plan EU-proof. 

Austria and the Netherlands warned recently that they would take the plan to the European Court of Justice if it discriminated against non-Germans. Alexander Dobrindt, Germany's Transport Minister and a member of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, insisted on Monday that his experts had taken the Commission's comments into account and that the plan wouldn't breach EU law. 

The planned law has not only caused controversy at European level but also in German itself. Despite the strong support of the CSU, Chancellor Merkel has clearly stated that she is opposed to it and does not intend to provide any support for it. The issue is of great importance to Bavaria due to the large traffic of foreign drivers on its roads.

FEDEMAC will be closely following the situation and will inform members as soon as new developments occur.

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