* Brussels has challenged German road toll plans
* Says they discriminate unfairly against foreign drivers
* Case could eventually land in court
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS, Feb 16 Brussels could escalate a legal
challenge to Berlin's planned road toll in April, an EU source
said on Tuesday, as the two sides remain at loggerheads over the
German transport minister's pet project.
The executive European Commission launched its challenge,
known as an infringement proceeding, against Germany last June.
It argues that Germany's plans to charge foreign drivers up
to 130 euros ($145) a year to use its Autobahn motorways but
give German drivers a corresponding reduction in automobile
taxes contravene EU rules for equal treatment.
The Commission may issue an opinion in April in which it
would lay out reasons it believes the toll breaches European
Union law, an EU source said.
The step after that would be a referral to the European
Court of Justice though the person said there has been no final
decision and things could still change.
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt has repeatedly
rejected assertions that the toll is discriminatory and said it
would generate some 500 million euros for the state each year,
to be invested in transport infrastructure.
Initially meant to be introduced in 2016, the toll is on
hold until Germany and the EU find an agreement.
European Commission spokesman Jakub Adamowicz said it had
requested further information from Germany in December and was
assessing what Berlin had provided before deciding on the next
steps, which might be a reasoned opinion.
Dobrindt and his Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) party
have long wanted foreign motorists to pay tolls on motorways
because they say it is unfair that foreigners travel for free in
Germany while Germans have to pay tolls in neighbouring
countries such as Austria, Switzerland and France.
While the toll is a pet project of the CSU, Merkel's bigger
Christian Democrat (CDU) sister party and the co-governing
centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) were long sceptical.
They finally agreed to the measure provided it conformed
with EU rules.
($1 = 0.8984 euros)
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; editing by John Stonestreet)