EU leaders are meeting in Brussels for the European Council summit, where a row between Germany and France over the EU’s plan to ban internal combustion engine cars is splitting the bloc. Germany’s transport minister said earlier this week his country would not support a proposed EU ban on the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines from 2035. He said he wanted assurances from the bloc executive that there would be an exemption for synthetic fuels.
Germany’s veto of the proposal enraged officials in Brussels and the bloc split in two. On one side, Germany stood behind the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria and Italy, and on the other, French President Emmanuel Macron said France was ready to defend the EU’s plan at this week’s summit.
Arriving in the Belgian capital for the Council meeting, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said: “There are some technologies where Italy and Europe are ahead.
“Being tied to technologies where foreign countries have the upper hand does not help the competitiveness of our system.”
She added: “Our view is that we share our goals [green] transition, but we do not believe that the EU should decide which technologies will be used to achieve this goal.”
But Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš sided with France on the matter and scolded German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
He told reporters in Brussels that Berlin’s decision to block the plans was “puzzling” and a “difficult sign for the future”.
He added: “If one member state can do this, what will stop the next? This is not a direction we need to go. The entire architecture of decision-making would collapse if we all did that.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he still hopes the dispute could lead to a solution within the next 48 hours, while his Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo reiterated: “We cannot start doubting ourselves now.”
Earlier this month, a disgruntled Brussels official said: “This block is not at the 11th or even the 12th hour. We had a deal, the law was agreed and passed in the European Parliament.
“When you can no longer rely on political agreements, it becomes really dangerous. I’m not exaggerating – you can imagine what other countries will do following this precedent.”
The conservative group of the European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament, is also opposed to the ban and is calling on member countries to do the same.
“The ban will prevent innovation, cost thousands of jobs and lead to the demise of a core European industry,” said Jens Gieseke, EPP Group negotiator on the proposed regulation.
The plan, part of the bloc’s effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, effectively means the sale of new cars that burn hydrocarbon-based fuels like petroleum would be banned.
Opposing countries had asked the EU Executive Commission to draw up an exemption for cars that burn so-called e-fuels.
They argued that such fuels could be made using renewable energy and carbon from the air so they wouldn’t release any more climate-damaging emissions into the atmosphere.
German Transport Minister Volker Wissing said the European Commission had not made a proposal for the requested exemption, meaning Germany would not support the ban.
Gieseke said the legislation should be supplemented with a credit system for synthetic fuels.