car toll overturned: the consequences for the federal government and german motorists

Wishful thinking: For the time being, there will be no passenger car toll in Germany - at least none according to the CSU's plans to date

Years of planning were put into the passenger car toll, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer wanted to let go of his prestige project in 2020. But that will come to nothing. What are the consequences of the failure?

Munich – The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has overturned the German passenger car toll. The planned levy for the use of freeways violates EU law, the ECJ ruled – and thus proved the Austrian government right, which had filed a lawsuit against the CSU’s pet project. The tz explains what the ruling means.

Car toll: How the judges justified their decision?

The ECJ considered the plans to be discriminatory against foreign drivers, because German vehicle owners were to be relieved of the burden of vehicle tax when the tolls were introduced. The planned levy violates the principles of free movement of goods and freedom to provide services. Because for German vehicle owners, the toll would be “fully compensated”. As a result, the “economic burden of this levy actually lies solely on the owners and drivers of vehicles registered in other member states”.

The German toll plans have shown that the system change to a user principle in financing “in reality exclusively” affects foreign vehicle owners, while the tax financing principle continues to apply to German motorists. Transport Minister Scheuer’s post is now also likely to totter under the passenger car toll debacle.

Must concede defeat: The passenger car toll planned by Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer does not comply with European law

Why the ruling on the passenger car toll came as a surprise?

In his opinion in February, the Advocate General responsible for the proceedings had argued in favor of rejecting Austria’s complaint. In contrast to many other proceedings, this time the ECJ judges did not follow the Advocate General’s proposed decision.

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What does the passenger car toll ruling mean for the German government??

Germany must bury the toll plans that have been discussed for nine years in this form. This is above all a debacle for the CSU, which had once invented the “foreigner toll” as an “electoral maneuver” (according to Bavaria’s Green Party leader Eike Hallitzky).

The federal government is also in trouble because facts have already been created in advance for the introduction of tolls. Above all, there are the surcharges for the private operators of the toll, from whom compensation claims are now threatened. In addition, the money from the toll was already planned in the 2020 federal budget, and jobs had already been created at the Federal Motor Transport Authority. The federal government had expected revenues of half a billion euros annually.

A map of Europe with a difference: the overview shows how passenger car tolls are implemented in other countries

What the German toll should have looked like?

Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) planned the start of the car toll for October 2020. All owners of cars registered in Germany were to pay an annual toll of a maximum of 130 euros for the use of autobahns and federal highways. But at the same time, German drivers should not pay more than before and should therefore be relieved of the burden of vehicle tax when the toll is introduced. This political move was considered legally tricky from the start.

Because there was no relief for foreign drivers – they were supposed to pay when they drove on German highways. After the failed plans, you only had the possibility to choose between vignettes for ten days, two months or one year. The planned prices ranged from 2.50 euros to 130 euros.

Car toll overturned: What happens now?

The previous plans have come to an end. But Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, who also had to take a step backwards in terms of the catalog of fines, does not want to give up the basic idea of financing the freeway network through all users. However, German drivers will probably have to pay just as much as foreign drivers.

Passenger car tolls: squabbling for six years now

The dispute over the passenger car toll began six years ago: At 15. July 2013 the CSU included the toll “for travelers from abroad on German highways” in the party program. CDU leader Angela Merkel rejected the plans of the CSU, it came to heavy dispute in the Union. At 7. July 2014 the then CSU Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt presented his toll concept, which was introduced on 27. March 2015 of the coalition partner SPD in the Bundestag and am 8. May 2015 was approved by the Bundesrat. But then the EU Commission initiated proceedings against the toll because it discriminates against EU foreigners. After a number of changes, Dobrindt and the EU Transport Commissioner agreed on a 1. December 2016 a modified toll concept – which has now been overturned following a lawsuit by Austria.

Also interesting:

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer is apparently planning to change the rules on driving licenses. As a result, motorcycling will soon be possible without an additional test. Experts are already warning of a drastic increase in the number of accidents. Austria plans to abolish tolls for certain routes in winter 2019/20 – as of mid-December 2019, three highway sections near the border with Germany have now been exempted from the fee.

Chancellor Angela Merkel answers critical questions about the government’s work in the government inquiry at the end of the year. But the passenger car toll mess also continues to cause problems for Scheuer: Apparently, the minister’s cell phone data has been deleted.

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