International

German truck toll for ECJ: Federal government threatened with defeat – financial consequences – politics

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

What exactly is it about?
A Polish freight forwarding company has sued the higher administrative court in Münster for the reimbursement of the German motorway toll for 2010 and 2011. According to them, the toll rates violate the EU directive on road charges. The main point of contention is the cost of the traffic police. The German courts have asked the Court of Justice to interpret the Directive, according to which only “infrastructure costs” may be applied to tolls.

What did the advocate general say?
CJEU expert Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe found that the costs for the traffic police did not belong there. He sees no leeway in the calculation. Even a marginal surplus in infrastructure costs for tolls was contrary to EU law. Often the top judges of the EU follow their judges.

The expert also recommends that the ECJ reject an application from the federal government intended to limit the effect of a judgment in time to the detriment of the Federal Republic. The amount of EUR 200 million per year for expenditure on traffic police, quoted by the Federal Republic at the hearing, is not sufficient to demonstrate a “risk of serious economic consequences”.

What is the toll for trucks about?

The truck toll on federal highways was introduced in 2005. According to the Ministry of Transport, this has led to a system change – from taxation to user financing for the construction of highways. Heavy trucks in particular wear out the roads. Truck tolls have now been extended to all federal highways. It applies to trucks from 7.5 tons. There is a differentiation according to the polluting emissions of the vehicles.

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According to the calculation of the road costs for the federal trunk road network for the years 2018 to 2022, the operating, maintenance and toll costs as well as the expenditure for the police form an essential part of the infrastructure costs.

The ECJ had quashed plans for a German car toll in June 2019 because they discriminated against drivers from abroad. Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer (CSU) is therefore under heavy pressure. The Bundestag is under investigation for possible violations of budgetary and public procurement law.

What consequences can the judgment have?

On the one hand, there is a risk that Germany will have to repay tolls. On the other hand, the federal government could lose revenue in the future if the infrastructure costs were reorganized. So far, the federal government has earned about $ 7 billion a year from truck tolls used on the highways.

It is unclear what amounts could be in the fire. The Ministry of Transport in Berlin was silent before the ruling. The ruling could also speed up the debate on a new version of the Eurovignette Directive, also known as the Road Costs Directive. It regulates the tolls for heavy commercial vehicles.

Following a ruling by the ECJ, the higher administrative court in Münster has to decide on the specific case in the test case. An appeal to the federal administrative court is then considered possible. (dpa)

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