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Neighbours angry at foreigner road toll plan

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Neighbours angry at foreigner road toll plan
A traffic sign on an Austrian motorway. Photo: DPA
12:15 CEST+02:00
Germany's plans to start charging foreign drivers on all of the country's roads, which were unveiled on Monday, are upsetting some its neighbours. Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands are all threatening to react.

Danish MPs are ready to respond with a toll of their own if the plan to make foreign drivers in Germany buy a vignette succeeds.“If the Germans do it, we should do it too,” was how The Local Denmark summed up the attitude.

The Danish motorists’ association, FDM, said the German move could set off a chain reaction that would cost European drivers dearly.

“We fear that motorists in Europe will become a running cash cow which individual countries will milk by imposing fees on drivers whenever their national coffers run low,” FDM’s Torben Kudsk told newspaper Politiken. “It’s a slippery slope.”

“If the Germans implement the discussed road taxes so that Danish motorists need to pay, then we must consider a counter response,” Kristian Pihl Lorentzen, the traffic spokesperson for opposition party Venstre, told Berlingske newspaper.

'We have allies'

And Austrian transport minister Doris Bures said her government would use "all means" to fight the German plans, including suing Germany before the European Court of Justice.

"We have allies. The Netherlands have signalled that they would join us," said Bures on Monday.

German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt, from the Christian Social Union (CSU), unveiled plans for a mandatory vignette system on Monday which could be introduced in 2016.

He proposed three different types of vignettes - a ten-day pass for €10, one for two months for €20, and a year-long pass which could cost up to €100 a year, depending on the vehicle's engine size.

German car owners would be compensated through a reduction in their vehicle tax, meaning foreigner drivers would be the ones paying.

Austrian newspaper Der Standard called the plan a "monster toll".

"An enormous machinery is set in motion only so the CSU can say: ‘It does not cost the Germans anything but foreigners will have to pay’," wrote the newspaper.

'A bone in the throat'                                 

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf was equally critical. "The ease with which costs are put on Dutch drivers and our economy is alarming,” it said.

The Royal Dutch Touring Club, a motoring association, launched an online petition to protest the German government's plans. Almost 6,000 people had signed it by Tuesday midday.

The association made the case that leaving from German airports for a two-week vacation would become €20 more expensive.

And filling their car's tank may also become more expensive for the Dutch. While petrol is 18 cents cheaper per litre in Germany according to the group, a short-term vignette would add €10 to the final bill.

The Dutch Association for Transport and Logistics called the plan "unfair". A spokesman told Dutch media that the group did not know if the plans would harm the transport sector financially.

Last year, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the toll plan "a bone in the throat".

But Germany's Eastern neighbours were more subdued. Media in the Czech Republic and Poland reported the news without comment. Germany is the biggest trade partner of both countries.

Police union critical

The debate inside Germany over Dobrindt's plans also continued on Tuesday.

The head of Germany's police union, Rainer Wendt, rejected the idea that police officers would carry out vignette checks from 2016.

"Not a single police officer will be available to control the toll in Germany," Wendt told Bild newspaper.

"This is purely about revenue management and has nothing to do with transport security. That's not what we're here for and we won't do it," he added.

The leader of the opposition Green Party, Simone Peter, called Dobrindt's proposal "silly, unfair and ... a bureaucratic monster”.

SEE ALSO: Foreigner toll to come to German roads

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