Berlin (dpa) – In the investigation into the failed car toll, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) was again acquitted by an important witness. 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 as a witness in the toll investigation committee on Thursday that he was “very certain” there was no such offer.
Schulz had already testified in October in a testimony – and has now substantiated that. He now said that even after reviewing the files, his memory had “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. The planned operators are claiming damages of 560 million euros after the federal government immediately terminated the contracts following the judgment of the European Court of Justice (CJEU). The ECJ had destroyed the German car toll model in the summer of 2019.
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.
Schulz also reiterated his statement that in the conversation with the managers, him and Scheuer in November 2018, the aim was to bring a bid from the consortium at a price of three billion euros towards the two billion euros raised the Bundestag is approved.
The opposition is questioning the minister’s credibility. She accuses Scheuer of serious errors at the expense of taxpayers in the car toll and sees shared responsibility for former federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt (CSU) in the failed car toll.
Under his leadership, toll laws were instituted by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, according to a joint statement by the chairpersons of the FDP, the Greens and the Left in the toll investigation committee.
Contrary to many legal beliefs, toll laws have been declared legally consistent. Green chairman Oliver 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.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) declared the car toll in the summer of 2019 in violation of European law – it discriminated against car owners from other EU countries. The ruling related to a 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.
FDP Chairman Christian Jung said Dobrindt should have prevented Scheuer from signing operator contracts before the Court of Justice ruling. Left-wing chairman Jörg Cezanne said that under Dobrindt’s leadership, the ministry carried the claim that the German car toll was EU-friendly as a mantra during all parliamentary proceedings.
Meanwhile, the opposition sees unanswered questions about Scheuer’s communication via a private mailbox. Krischer said that if Scheuer had hidden correspondence about a private email address about the car toll, it would have consequences.
Spiegel reported that Scheuer had apparently used a private, previously unknown email address for official business. Various sources had confirmed to the magazine that Scheuer communicated through an account with the provider GMX, including in the field of car tolls. Scheuer did not disclose the letterbox to the investigation committee.
A ministry spokesperson said, “Since no emails on the subject of autotolls have been sent to or from this account, there can be no discussion.” It was also said that the constituency member and Federal Minister Scheuer could be reached in different ways. The minister is on the investigation committee on 28 January and answers questions from MPs. FDP Chairman Jung said, “I still have the impression that important emails from Andreas Scheuer are missing.”