EC does not authorise German toll system
Brussels, Belgium – The European Commission decided today that the proposed German aid measure concerning a reimbursement mechanism for the toll of heavy goods vehicles on German motorways is incompatible with the European common market.
Vice-President Jacques Barrot, in charge of EU Transport Policy, said: I welcome the successful introduction of the German toll system. The European Union is in favour of charging the use of road infrastructure by lorries. However, the proposed variation in the charges would create different conditions for German as opposed to non-German trucks.
As from 1 January 2005 the German authorities have introduced a mileage-based motorway toll for heavy goods vehicles and fixed the average toll rate at 12.4 cents/km. They intend to increase the rate to 15 cents/km and introduce at the same time a toll reimbursement system to compensate road hauliers for the increase. However, the reimbursement depends on the payment of a certain amount of excise duties on fuel purchased in Germany. Against proof of payment of 8.6 cents/km of excise duties per litre of fuel paid in Germany, 2.6 cents/km would be reimbursed on the toll charges.
The Commission supports the toll system as such. A distance-based user charge leads to a more cost-related use of transport infrastructure which is an important goal of the EU-s transport policy. In addition, the change from a time-based motorway charge to a mileage-based one means that shorter distances become cheaper and longer ones more expensive. On such longer routes less polluting transport modes can offer an alternative to the road. Therefore, the Commission decision does not contest the toll as such but only the toll reimbursement system as envisaged by the German authorities because of its discriminatory effects on non-German trucks.
Indeed, the Commission notes that that linking a reduction in toll fees to the amount of excise duties paid on German territory would result in a difference in treatment between hauliers that fill their tank in Germany and hauliers that fill their tank outside of Germany. The Commission does not see an objective justification for this different treatment as all hauliers that use German highways are objectively in the same situation. A road haulier using a German motorway and buying his fuel outside of Germany is using the German road infrastructure in exactly the same way as a road haulier who fills up his tank in Germany. Obviously the former would be more often based in another Member State, which means that the measure results in a de facto discrimination against foreign road hauliers. Therefore, the measure does not respect the principle of non-discrimination of EU nationals. In addition, the necessity of the measure has not been demonstrated by the German authorities. For these reasons, the Commission has come to the conclusion that the measure is incompatible with the European common market.