Germany rejects Commission’s proposal for ending car engine impasse

BRUSSELS — The German government has rejected the European Commission’s attempt to compromise in a battle over the future of combustion engines, deepening a row that has overshadowed an ongoing summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

As POLITICO reported earlier this week, the EU executive had said it would not reopen draft legislation mandating a zero-emission sales-only policy for cars and vans from 2035 — agreed by the Parliament and EU countries last year — to make room for synthetic so-called e-fuels, as demanded by Berlin. Instead, it agreed to Berlin’s request to make tweaks to separate, existing legislation known as Euro 6, setting out a classification for vehicles running exclusively “carbon neutral fuels” such as e-fuels.

But Berlin has now rejected Brussels’ offer, according to a formal response seen by POLITICO.

The German transport ministry said in its response, sent late Thursday evening, that it will continue its blockade of the 2035 measures unless either Commission President Ursula von der Leyen or the EU’s Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans signs a draft declaration, penned by the German transport ministry.

This draft declaration, also sent to the Commission by Berlin, states that the Commission should propose a delegated act “before autumn 2023” that will allow the sale of vehicles running solely on e-fuels after 2035, by when the zero-emissions mandate should come into force.

Berlin argues that signing this declaration would resolve the dispute without reopening the legislation.

If the Commission agrees, then the German government would lift its roadblock and allow the 2035 rules to pass. But the draft declaration also includes a clause that if the “co-legislators” move to block the delegated act — basically, the European Parliament — then the Commission would commit to reopening the CO2 standards rules to make room for e-fuels.

The spat over engines loomed large on the first day of the EU leaders’ summit, despite not being an official topic on the agenda.

Von der Leyen said at a press conference at the end of summit talks Thursday that discussions on the matter would continue. “Time is of the essence,” she said. “We intensify the talks and I’m confident that we will soon find a good solution.”

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