The European Parliament this week looks to be heading towards a major disagreement with EU transport ministers over the future of the so-called ecopoints system for managing lorry transit through Austria. The existing system is due to expire at the end of this year.
The Parliament is proposing that non-Austrian lorries which are built after the beginning of 2000, and have to meet the strictest existing EU legislation on vehicle emissions, should be allowed unlimited access to Austrian territory from next year, while EU transport ministers argue that these lorries should be subject to restrictive quotas until the end of 2006.
The Parliament also argues that the application of quotas to lorries built before 2000 should be limited to lorry transit through sensitive Alpine regions, whereas the Council demands that these access restrictions should apply to the Austrian territory as a whole.
Luciano Caveri, the Italian MEP responsible for steering the legislation through the European Parliament, who has also been President of the Parliament's influential Transport committee over the past 2 years, will leave the European Parliament this month to return to domestic politics in his home region of Val d'Aosta, in the Italian Alps. Commenting on this week's European Parliament vote on ecopoints in Strasbourg, he said:
"We need to find a workable long-term solution to the issue of Alpine transit. There is clear frustration in the European Parliament that the Council of Ministers seems determined to defend elements of the existing ecopoints system which prove that it cannot be a long-term solution. The application of ever diminishing quotas to the cleanest lorries is never going to encourage European hauliers to invest in clean engine technology.
"And there can be no long-term future for a system for managing Alpine lorry transit which discriminates between lorries on the basis of their country of origin, rather than their impact on the environment, and which only applies to the Austrian Alps, rather than the Alpine region as a whole. In this context, I find it particularly objectionable that, according to the Council's proposals, the oldest lorries from Greece and Portugal will enjoy a specific exemption from the ecopoints system in 2004.
"You may be assured that, even with my departure as rapporteur, the Parliament appears determined to stick to its guns on this proposal. I only hope that the Council will show itself to be more accommodating in direct negotiations with the Parliament this Autumn than it has been so far."
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