German motorways toll postponed pending Brussels verdict

Illustrative photo: My Friend, CC BY-SA 3.0

German motorways toll proposal put on hold but transport minister says he is confident it will come into force.

Illustrative photo: My Friend, CC BY-SA 3.0
Good news for car driving Czechs travelling or visiting Germany. Proposed Germany motorway charges have been postponed and will not come into force at the start of 2016 as originally planned.

German minister of transport Alexander Dobrint broke the news this week, pointing out that the delay is due to ongoing European Commission inquiries into whether the German charges are in line with EU rules. But Dobrint has not given up the charges and maintains that they will be found to conform with EU non-discrimination rules and will come into force sooner or later. The Czech Republic as well as Austria have taken a lead in attacking the proposed German tolls. Foreign car drivers could face charges of up to 130 euros. The charges are calibrated according to the type of vehicle and its pollution performance.

The crux of the Commission quarrel with the German motorway charges is that they appear to specifically target foreign motorists. In fact, the charges on German drivers are subtracted from their normal car taxes. Whether this argument will wash in Brussels is still not clear but the choice of an operator for the toll system on the motorways has been put on hold. German newspaper Die Welt reported that the European Commission has already prepared a statement of objections to the motorways tolls giving Berlin around 60 days to defend its stand before taking a final position on whether they can stand or fall.

In some ways, you might feel sorry for the Germans. Their motorists are faced with tolls almost every way they turn and they are probably feeling they are getting a raw deal as the bumpy would be foreign autobahns take a differ toll on their fine vehicles. Some of the local tolls, such as in Slovakia, are demanded for relatively small, but almost unavoidable, stretches of motorway such as that leading to Hungary and the German watering hole of Lake Balaton.

Although the tolls are overwhelming the result of election promises of the dominant Bavarian-based centre-right party, the CSU, a number of Bavarian towns and cities along the Czech-German border came out against them. They pointed out that they would deter the ever growing cross border trade between the two countries with Czechs now regarded as valuable shoppers and tourists. Major roads though will not be charged under the German proposal.

The tolls proposal came as the Germany also sparked anger from many countries in Central and Southern Europe over its idea that its minimum wages should apply to foreign truck drivers driving through the country. Many truck drivers, thanks to their lower labour costs, now come from Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The wages idea has been challenged by the European Commission with Berlin looking like being a clear loser on that one.