Wissing: “Off for the combustion engine off”

After a week-long argument about the combustion engine off, a solution should now be emerging. According to the transport minister, a compromise has been proposed.

In the dispute over the future of new cars with combustion engines, Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing is confident that a viable solution will now be found. The FDP politician told the German Press Agency that they had consulted closely with the EU Commission and, after careful consideration, submitted a constructive proposal for a solution. “We assume that this not only satisfactorily answers all content-related, but also legal questions.”

Wissing added: “There should be nothing standing in the way of the approval of newly registered vehicles with combustion engines that are fueled exclusively with synthetic fuels even after 2035.” It is now expected that the EU Commission will issue a corresponding declaration, name clear time targets and initiate the process for corresponding legal acts. “Our proposal to the EU Commission is the end of the combustion engine,” said the Minister of Transport on Twitter.

Von der Leyen: Time is of the essence

On Thursday evening, the ministry sent a letter in reply to the EU Commission’s latest proposed solutions to Brussels, according to government circles in Berlin. The proposals of the EU Commission had become known at the beginning of the week. Accordingly, the authority defined a draft of criteria for the approval of new vehicles that are exclusively operated with CO2-neutral fuels.

The background to this is a fundamental agreement between the European Parliament and EU states, according to which only zero-emission new cars may be registered in the EU from 2035. However, Germany is urging that new cars with internal combustion engines that run on e-fuels – i.e. climate-neutral artificial fuels that are produced with green electricity – be permitted after this. A confirmation of the agreement by the EU states, which was planned for early March, was therefore initially prevented by Germany.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen was also confident that a solution would be found quickly in the dispute. “Time is of the essence in this case,” said the German on Thursday evening after the first day of an EU summit in Brussels. The project is an important pillar for achieving the EU climate goals. “And that’s why we’re intensifying the talks and I’m confident that we’ll find a good solution soon.”

Scholz: “That’s a consensus”

FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai said on Friday in the ZDF “Morgenmagazin”: “This dispute will only be off the table when the EU Commission puts a very clear legal requirement on the table that after 2035 combustion engines with e-fuels, with so-called synthetic fuels, are possible.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz had previously defended the German position in the dispute over cars with combustion engines against criticism from European partners. “There is a clear understanding in Europe,” said the SPD politician on Thursday at the EU summit. This includes the EU Commission making a proposal as to how vehicles with combustion engines that are operated exclusively with climate-neutral e-fuels can also be approved after 2035. “That’s a consensus.”

Criticism from other EU countries

However, anyone who listened to other heads of government soon realized that the German approach was at least irritating for some partners, if anything it was anger. Most recently, the FDP in particular ensured that an important climate protection law could not be passed in the EU, according to which only emission-free new cars may be registered in the EU from 2035.

The prime minister of Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš, was the clearest. With regard to the German approach, he spoke of a “very, very difficult sign for the future”. It is surprising that a government suddenly decides differently after an agreement has already been reached.

When the basic agreement was reached in autumn, Germany had negotiated an addition to the agreement, according to which the EU Commission should submit a proposal on how vehicles that are operated exclusively with e-fuels can be approved after 2035. In the EU Commission, the corresponding paragraph was always read in such a way that special vehicles such as ambulances or fire engines should be affected. According to the Berlin interpretation, however, the e-fuel exception should apply to all vehicles.


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