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Foreigner toll to come to all German roads

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Foreigner toll to come to all German roads
Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt's CSU outlines his toll plan on Monday. Photo: DPA
11:57 CEST+02:00
Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt presented his plan on Monday to charge drivers on all German roads. Critics claim the project, promised to be cost-free for German drivers, discriminates against foreigners and violates European law.

On Monday afternoon, Dobrindt unveiled details for the introduction of an "infrastructure fee" which would make vignettes for drivers compulsory.

German car owners would receive the vignette in the mail and its price would be deducted from their vehicle taxes, meaning they should not be paying more than before.

But foreign drivers would have to buy a vignette from 2016, costing a maximum of €100 a year or €20 for two months. A short-term option of €10 for ten days is also expected to be introduced. They could be bought online or in petrol stations. 

Dobrindt claimed the introduction of the vignette was a question of justice, arguing it wasn't fair that Germans had to pay to drive on roads, through a road tax, and foreigners did not. "We want to level the playing field," he said.

The transport ministry expects the scheme to bring in €625 million a year, starting in 2016.

Dobrindt's CSU party, the Bavarian sister ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), campaigned to bring in motorway tolls for foreigners last year.

The minister is expected to introduce two separate pieces of legislation in an effort to make his plans compatible with European law, Rheinische Post newspaper reported on Monday. One bill would introduce the vignette system and the other deal with the vehicle tax offset.

'Obvious discrimination'

But any toll only affecting foreigners and discriminating on the basis of nationality would violate European law, the EU has said.

And transport experts and members of the CDU/CSU's coalition partner, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), criticized the plans.

Automobile club ADAC said last month that while its members favoured a foreigner-only toll, such a scheme would likely be illegal under EU laws.

The Union of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry for Transport (UECC) said Dobrindt's plans reflected "an obvious discrimination against foreigners".

"In all other European countries, either everyone has to pay tolls or no one," said the organization's Secretary General, Rainer Füeg.

SEE ALSO: Five dos and dont's on the German Autobahn

SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner distanced his party from Dobrindt's plans. "At first glance all of this doesn't exactly sound uncomplicated or unbureaucratic," said Stegner.

A top SPD lawmaker said he was concerned about how Germany's neighbours felt about the government's plans.

"If we start collecting a toll on all roads, then everyone around us will collect tolls on all roads," said Sören Bartol, the party's deputy leader in parliament.

The leader of the ecologist Green Party's group in the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter (pictured), said the plan was an "absurd, ultimately completely irresponsible concept".

"Just imagine the problems in the border traffic between Saarland and France or Brandenburg and Poland if Germans won't have to pay for the roads of their respective neighbours but French and Poles in reverse will have to pay," Hofreiter said.

States want a share

Politicians in Germany's 16 Bundesländer (states) demanded a cut if the toll was applied beyond the motorways administered by the federal government.

"If there is a toll on state and local roads, then the states and cities must get a cut of the revenue," said Reinhard Meyer (SPD), the chairman of the Conference of Transport Ministers.

"Towns and municipalities expect to participate in the toll revenue," said Gerd Landsberg, the CEO for the German Association of Towns and Municipalities.

Horst Seehofer, the leader of Dobrindt's CSU party, said on Monday that the states would likely benefit from any revenue.

SEE ALSO: Who should pay for Germany's roads?

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