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DIESEL

‘Yellow vests’ hit German streets in pro-diesel protest

Hundreds of people demonstrated Saturday in Stuttgart, the bastion of Germany's car industry, against a recent driving ban on older diesels, wearing yellow vests to match protesters in France whose movement began as a reaction to proposed fuel hikes.

'Yellow vests' hit German streets in pro-diesel protest
Photo: DPA

Since January 1st, only diesel vehicles meeting the Euro 5 emissions standard are allowed into Stuttgart, home of Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler, Volkswagen subsidiary Porsche and the world's biggest car parts supplier Bosch.

The demonstrators held banners saying “Pro-diesel” and “Diesel drivers mobilise” as they gathered outside a car emissions centre.

“What's happening to people is unjust,” joint organiser Vasilos Topalis told AFP.

“Tens of thousands of people are affected and can't afford to buy a new car” following the court-ordered ban, he added.

Environmental organisations last year took to the courts to push through similar driving bans in many German cities where emissions exceed European Union limits.

Judges ordered Berlin, Mainz, Hamburg and Bonn to limit some diesels' access, while parts of a motorway near Essen will be closed to the cars.

In response, the Stuttgart organisers have asked people to hit the streets clad in the yellow high-visibility vests that have defined months of protests in France — themselves triggered by an increase in tax on diesel.


Photo: DPA

“Yellow vests give us visibility, also in the media,” Topalis said.

“The French are an example to us, because they dared take to the streets to protect their rights.”

Topalis was careful to delineate the movement from any existing political force, after far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) attempted to capitalise on last week's demonstration that drew 1,200 people.

Increasing numbers have been drawn to the movement over its four weeks, as Germany's coalition government remains divided on how to balance the interests of drivers, city dwellers and the environment.

READ ALSO: How diesel bans have ignited a debate about dirty tricks and dodgy money

Member comments

  1. Were Diesel prices not increased in the past?Is this the first increase?How a particular group with a particular attire is raising this issue?Rulers of European Union should be careful whether it is France or Germany or any other country and try to find the reasons.

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POLLUTION

Germany can jail officials who flout anti-pollution rulings, court says

Germany can jail officials for failing to enforce inner-city bans on polluting vehicles, but only under specific legislation that respects proportionality, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday.

Germany can jail officials who flout anti-pollution rulings, court says
Photo: DPA

It would be up to the German justice system to determine whether such politicians should face jail time, the court said, after being asked to rule on a long-standing dispute between environmental activists and the state government of Bavaria.

In a legal tug-of-war stretching back to 2012, environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) is attempting to force the Bavarian government to implement measures against air pollution in the state capital Munich.

Both activists and the judiciary have claimed the Bavarian government is flagrantly ignoring a 2014 Munich court decision demanding a plan of action to include a city ban for diesel-fuelled vehicles.

Thursday's ECJ opinion, though not legally binding, could have implications for leading politicians in the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats.

The ECJ said any jail sentence would require “a national legal basis which is sufficiently accessible, precise and foreseeable in its application”.

It added that such punishment must be “proportionate”.

READ ALSO: How German diesel bans have ignited a debate about dirty tricks and dodgy money

The court's advocate general had said in November that no such legal basis appeared to exist in Germany.

The Bavarian higher administrative court referred the case to the ECJ in November 2018, saying that “high-ranking political figures (had) made it clear, both publicly and to the court, that they would not fulfil their
responsibilities.”

Saying a €4,000 fine had proved “inefficient”, it asked the magistrates in Luxembourg to advise on the legality of threatening lawmakers with imprisonment.

In Thursday's ruling the ECJ recalled that the “referring court found that ordering the payment of financial penalties was not liable to result” in a change in conduct since the fine would be credited as income for Bavaria and thus “not result in any economic loss”.

It said incarceration should be a recourse “only where there are no less restrictive” measures such as stiffer, renewable fines whose payment “does not ultimately benefit the budget from which they are funded”.

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