European Parliament panel urges better diesel oversight

Associated Press

Brussels — A European Parliament panel chastised European authorities and automakers on Tuesday for failing to ensure that laws on diesel emissions were upheld, and called for much-improved oversight in the future.

The investigating committee was set up after it emerged in late 2015 that Germany’s Volkswagen had installed software that allowed cars to cheat on emissions tests — something that turned out to not have been isolated to the U.S., where the cheating was first detected.

“One of the main conclusions is that ‘Dieselgate’ could have been avoided if member states and the European Commission had simply followed the European law,” panel member Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy said after the committee wrapped up its work. He said that much stronger oversight of the approval of car types at European level “is the only way forward to avoid a next scandal.”

The committee has already accused France, Italy and Spain, among others of trying to slow down the introduction of tougher emissions tests. Gerbrandy, a Dutch lawmaker, said it was “shocking that so little has changed” as far as national authorities and the industry are concerned, complaining that “the Italian supervisor still lets Fiat off the hook, the German authorities are still failing to issue fines to Volkswagen.”

The panel’s conclusions aren’t binding but increase pressure on the EU’s executive Commission to improve oversight. The committee faulted the fact that different departments in Brussels were in charge of air quality and car emissions.

It voted narrowly to call for a new EU agency to enforce European law properly, said panel member Jens Gieseke, a German conservative. He stressed that “the thing that we invent has to work.”

The panel’s vice-chairwoman, Green lawmaker Karima Delli of France, backed such an agency in light of what she said was “consistent evidence of a responsibility vacuum.”