EU postpones vote to ban combustion engines due to meddling from Germany
The EU states will not vote as planned on Tuesday on the ban of combustion engines in new cars from 2035. The vote was taken off the agenda of the Council of Ministers and postponed indefinitely.
This means that the disruptive manoeuvre of the German political party FDP, as already outlined on Thursday, is having its effect: On Tuesday, the already decided ban in the EU on new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles with combustion engines from 2035 onwards was to be formally sealed by the EU states. But Germany’s Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) revoked his approval of the decision. His party insists on seeing a proposal for the integration of e-fuels before the EU vote. Since there is thus no unity within the federal government, Germany would have had to abstain from the EU vote.
Germany would not be able to overturn the ban on internal combustion vehicles on its own, but Italy, Poland and Bulgaria had already announced that they will not agree or are calling for it to be toned down. Should all four countries refuse to vote in favour, there would be no qualified majority in the Council and the law would be rejected.
After years of negotiations, the European Union has reached a political agreement on a European phase-out of internal combustion vehicles. Germany has so far supported this and the European Council confirmed the draft law in November 2022 with Germany’s approval. The Parliament did likewise shortly afterwards. The only thing still missing is the approval of the member states. Actually a formality.
As the German publication Spiegel reports, the FDP reiterated its no to the plans on Friday morning. “Germany may expect that a proposal will be submitted if such a proposal has been promised,” Wissing said in the morning. He was thus picking up on a promise made by Frans Timmermans, EU Commissioner for Climate Protection, who had pledged in June 2022 to address the issue of e-fuels. However, he did not say exactly when.
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The cancellation of the final decision on Tuesday was announced by a spokesperson of the Swedish Council Presidency on Twitter on Friday morning. A vote among EU ambassadors, which is considered a test and was supposed to take place on Wednesday, was also postponed again. The tweet said that the issue would be revisited “at the appropriate time”.
According to the German Tagesschau, Wissing said after the postponement was announced that the question of Germany’s positioning no longer arose. “If it had been asked, Germany would not have agreed today,” he said, referring to the trial vote at EU ambassador level that was actually planned for today. Further information on the next steps would be provided in the course of the day.
The head of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is now also intervening to end the FDP’s blockade. On Sunday, all the players – Transport Minister Wissing, Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, Economics Minister Robert Habeck and von der Leyen – will meet at a cabinet retreat in Meseberg, which is actually dedicated to another topic. There is to be a press statement at 5 pm.
As expected, the reactions to the phasing out of the internal combustion engine, which is now on the brink of collapse, are fierce. Yesterday, we quoted statements by Sebastian Bock, German Managing Director of Transport & Environment, as well as the Green transport experts Stefan Gelbhaar and Michael Bloss. But also from supporter Hildegard Müller in her position as President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry.
tagesschau.de, spiegel.de (both in German)