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Autotol: Dobrindt sees no part of the responsibility in the failure | Free press

Berlin (dpa) – Former Federal Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt (CSU) has dismissed accusations of co-responsibility for the failure of the car toll.

On Friday evening, Dobrindt referred as a witness in the Bundestag committee of inquiry to a compromise reached with the European Commission at the end of 2016 on the German toll model for cars. Dobrindt said the commission “stamped” for compliance with European law. The toll could thus be entered. However, the opposition sees Dobrindt’s joint responsibility for the failure of the car toll.

Dobrindt said the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling, which “swept the toll off the table”, was very surprising to him. In the summer of 2019, the ECJ declared the German car toll in violation of European law – it discriminated against car owners from other EU countries.

Looking at his successor Andreas Scheuer (CSU), Dobrindt said he had political responsibility during his time as federal minister. Each minister is responsible for his own decision. Scheuer’s role is central to the process of dealing with the failed toll; the opposition accuses him of making serious mistakes at the expense of the taxpayer.

FDP chairman Christian Jung said Dobrindt had placed full political responsibility for the car toll disaster on Scheuer. Green chairman Oliver Krischer spoke of clear “cracks” in the CSU building, Scheuer movements were recognizable. Dobrindt’s argument that the Commission had given “carte blanche” under European law is far-fetched. This has been refuted by a witness.

Former Head of Cabinet of former EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Selmayr, had stated that the EU Commission had stopped infringement proceedings against Germany in the car toll in 2017 was no guarantee of legal certainty. Krischer said Dobrindt had tried with his testimony to push away his own responsibility as “the architect of the toll”.

The judgment of the Court of Justice related to the model for which Dobrindt, as Minister of Transport, had received the green light from the European Commission at the end of 2016. The car toll has been included in the black-red coalition agreement of 2013 at the insistence of the CSU. Dobrindt was Minister of Transport from 2013 to 2017 and has since then been the regional group leader of CSU.

Union chairman Ulrich Lange (CSU) said Dobrindt did not blame Scheuer, but described his actions during his tenure. There was close contact with the European Commission about car tolls from the start.

The opposition sees Dobrindt’s joint responsibility for the failure of the car toll. Under his leadership, toll laws were enacted by the Bundestag and Bundesrat, he said. Contrary to many legal beliefs, toll laws have been declared legally consistent. Krischer said Dobrindt had cut the toll on cars and laid the groundwork that would subsequently have led to the “legal total loss” before the European Court of Justice.

Dobrindt said during Scheuer’s tenure since 2018 that the toll had been set, that there was a fixed executive mandate for the responsible federal minister, regardless of its name.

The focus of the committee is that at the end of 2018 the Ministry of Transport had signed contracts for the collection and control of the toll under Scheuer – before there was definitive legal certainty. The opposition accuses Scheuer of serious errors, for example in budget law and procurement law. The proposed operators are claiming 560 million euros in damages after the federal government terminated contracts immediately after the ruling. Scheuer dismisses the allegations. On January 28 he will be interrogated again as a witness in the investigation committee.

Before Dobrindt, an important witness had once again acquitted Scheuer. These are statements by managers of the later operating companies. They stated that at a meeting in November 2018, they offered Scheuer to wait for the European Court of Justice to decide to conclude contracts.

Former Secretary of State for Transport Gerhard Schulz said in committee that he was “very confident there was no such offer.” Schulz had already testified in October in a testimony – and has now substantiated that. Even after inspecting the files, his memory condensed “to certainty” that no such offer had been made. Schulz suspected the ongoing arbitration proceedings between the federal government and the companies as the reason for the managers’ statements to the contrary.

Scheuer had testified in October: According to his recollection, there was no offer from the operator to delay the conclusion of a contract until a judgment of the Court of Justice. The opposition is questioning the minister’s credibility.


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