Council must remove handbrake on EU vehicle registration reform

Written by Dita Charanzová on 30 June 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

Registering cars is one of EU citizens' top concerns, yet governments have repeatedly stalled attempts to simplify the rules, writes Dita Charanzová.

Back in 2011, European citizens and businesses were asked what their greatest concerns about the single market were. Their answers ranged from healthcare, to bank accounts, to registering cars. The commission published a list of the top 20 and launched a programme to address them - as an EU citizen and an MEP, I shared these concerns.

Four years on, we have started to make progress on some of the issues that were raised, but one important legislative proposal remains stuck: the simplification of the transfer of motor vehicles regulation. 

The motor vehicle file has now been sitting on the council's desk for almost three years, and it could be a while before it goes anywhere. 


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As rapporteur on the dossier, I find the speed of the decision-making process in this case puzzling. I would have hoped that the council, like parliament, would want to address citizens' concerns as quickly as possible.

When the regulation was proposed in 2012, it looked as though it would be adopted swiftly - by Brussels standards at least - in about a year and a half. Informal trilogues were nearly complete, but suddenly and without warning, council slammed on the brakes.

It withdrew from the negotiations and demanded a study from the commission on how the proposal might affect tax revenues. The study was commissioned and delivered in December of last year.

I thought this would be the end of the story and that we could get back to work, but it seems the council had other ideas.

Assuming that European commission first vice-president for better regulation, interinstitutional relations, the rule of law and the charter of fundamental rights Frans Timmermans would scrap the file due to a lack of progress, a group of member states wrote him a letter asking for its withdrawal. 

Rather than offering solutions, they preferred the status quo and to abandon the whole proposal. After the shadow rapporteurs and I voiced our opposition, the commission rejected their request.

Defeated, these member states went on to attack the substance of the regulation - article three - which states that a vehicle can only be required to be registered in one EU country at a time. 

This article was an effort to protect citizens from double taxation and the Kafkaesque situation where more than one state thinks it is their vehicle. Article three is at the core of making life easier for people simply trying to get to work and back home every day. 

The excuse that was given by the member states was that they feared such a provision could lead to fraud. I personally believe that the benefits to citizens outweigh this risk, but I understand these concerns. 

If we can get back to the negotiating table and try to find a way to address these apprehensions with further clarifications, then we should.

This is why I regret that all of the Latvian EU council presidency's goodwill and hard work has not resulted in a move towards common sense. I don't think the article needs to be removed, or that the discussions should be used as a means to de facto kill the whole proposal. I remain hopeful that we can find a balanced approach and reach a compromise.

For the moment, however, parliament is still waiting, and the ball is in the council's court. I wonder how citizens would react if they knew their own governments were the ones refusing to move forward. We all want the council to act, and to act soon.

 

About the author

Dita Charanzová (Alliance of the Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Czech Republic) is parliament's rapporteur on simplifying the transfer of motor vehicles registered in another member state within the single market

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