Conservatives agree on foreigner road toll
UPDATE: Germany's conservative alliance has finally agreed to charge foreign motorway users a toll and hopes to raise €500 million a year, but critics say their plan isn't roadworthy.
Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, of the Christian Social Union (CSU), has been struggling to convince politicians from Germany's border states - and the CSU's sister party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - that the new law wouldn't hurt international trade.
News agency dpa reported on Thursday that the bill being proposed by Dobrindt aims to collect €500 million of revenue from foreign road users.
States like North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate benefit from free movement of road traffic from neighbouring countries and had until now resisted the Bavarian party's plans.
But after long negotiations with CDU politicians from those states, Dobrindt finally managed to secure a deal, meaning that the road is clear to charge foreigner drivers on Germany's Autobahns.
German drivers will be charged the toll on motorways and national roads, but will be compensated with a reduction in road taxes.
Armin Laschet, CDU leader in North Rhine-Westphalia, said that the plan was a “joint victory for the state and for the faction in parliament,” who had stuck to their guns and defended cross-border traffic.
And Baden-Württemberg CDU leader Thomas Strobl said that the plans “took the possible problems into account” for traffic across the 200-kilometre border between his state and France.
Show me the money
The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, though, remained opposed to the plan, calling it a “scandal”.
“A fee that's only charged to certain people in certain circumstances; a payment that you make only to have it repaid somewhere else - when has there ever been something like this?” the newspaper asked on Thursday.
Quoting figures from the German Automobile Club (ADAC) the paper suggested that the toll would only bring in €260 million a year, with set-up and running costs of €300 million.
“Outside of [CSU leader Horst] Seehofer country it doesn't add up,” the paper said.
ADAC vice-president Ulrich Klaus Becker further warned that the European Union might agree to the road toll but forbid the tax rebate for Germans as being discriminatory to non-German drivers.
“That way we'd get a road toll for all drivers in Germany,” Becker told the Rheinische Post.
Meanwhile, Green Party politicians said the new plans would remove the toll's teeth.
“If the toll only applies to motorways, most people will just take the other roads,” Green transport expert Valerie Wilms said.
Drivers will not have to stick paper vignettes on their windscreens, as is the case in Switzerland.