US News German truck toll before the ECJ: The federal government is threatened with defeat - with financial consequences

11:30  28 october  2020
11:30  28 october  2020 Source:   tagesspiegel.de

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The ECJ ruled that the toll "constitutes indirect discrimination on the grounds of nationality" as it was designed to be entirely offset by drivers in other But it did not accept the German argument that giving German motorists who paid the toll relief on their vehicle tax meant that the government was

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A Polish haulage company has sued the ECJ against the truck toll. The calculation of the levy is controversial, and it looks bad for Germany.

Ein Lastwagen fährt bei Magdala (Thüringen) auf der Bundesautobahn A4 unter einer Maut Kontrollbrücke durch. © Photo: dpa / Marc Tirl A truck drives through Magdala (Thuringia) on the A4 motorway under a toll control bridge.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled this Wednesday on the calculation of the German truck toll . The exact calculation of the road usage tax is disputed. Germany threatens defeat.

What exactly is it about?

A Polish forwarding company has sued the Higher Administrative Court in Münster for repayment of German motorway tolls from 2010 and 2011. In their opinion, the toll rates violate the EU road cost directive. The most important point of contention is the cost of the traffic police. The German judges have asked the ECJ to interpret the directive, according to which only “infrastructure costs” may be applied to tolls.

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What did the Advocate General say?

ECJ expert Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe found that the costs for the traffic police did not belong there. He does not see any leeway in the calculation. Even a marginal excess of infrastructure costs for tolls violated EU law. Often the top EU judges follow their reviewers.

The expert also recommends that the ECJ reject an application by the Federal Government that is intended to limit the temporal effect of a judgment to the detriment of the Federal Republic. The amount of 200 million euros per year mentioned by the Federal Republic at the hearing for expenses for the traffic police is not sufficient to prove a "risk of serious economic effects".

What is the truck toll about?

The truck toll on federal motorways was introduced in 2005. According to the Ministry of Transport, this has brought about a system change - away from taxation and towards user financing of highway construction. Because heavy trucks in particular wear out the roads. The truck toll has now been extended to all federal highways. It applies to trucks from 7.5 tons. There is a differentiation according to the pollutant emissions of the vehicles.

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The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms)

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An essential part of the infrastructure costs are loud Calculation of the road costs for the federal trunk road network for the years 2018 to 2022, operating, maintenance and toll collection costs as well as expenses for the police.

plans for a German car toll were overturned by the ECJ in June 2019 because they discriminated against drivers from abroad. Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) is therefore under heavy pressure. An investigative committee of the Bundestag is running due to possible violations of budgetary and public procurement law.

What consequences could the judgment have?

On the one hand, there is a risk that Germany will have to reimburse tolls. On the other hand, the federal government could lose income in the future if there is a possible new regulation of infrastructure costs . So far, the federal government has earned around seven billion euros a year from the truck toll, which is used for the highways.

It is unclear what sums could be in the fire. The Ministry of Transport in Berlin was silent before the verdict. The ruling could also give momentum to the debate about a new version of the Eurovignette directive, which is also called the road cost directive. It regulates road tolls for heavy commercial vehicles.

After a ruling by the ECJ, the Higher Administrative Court in Münster has to decide on the specific case in the model proceedings. An appeal to the Federal Administrative Court is then still considered possible. (dpa)

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