| BERLIN, July 7
BERLIN, July 7 Germany's Transport Minister
outlined proposals for a new road toll on Monday, attracting
immediate comdemnation from critics, including neighbouring
Austria, who say it would effectively only charge foreigners.
Alexander Dobrindt said the toll could generate an extra
2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in each four-year legislative
period, and would see the drivers of foreign vehicles
contributing to their upkeep.
German drivers would also pay the toll, but would be
compensated with a reduction in existing automobile taxes.
"We see some 170 million trips by cars registered abroad on
German roads each year. These are not involved in financing our
infrastructure in any way," said Dobrindt. "We want to bridge
that gap and we want all users of our streets to contribute to
His plan met with resistance from neighbouring states,
driver groups and lawmakers from within Germany's ruling
right-left coalition, complicating its chances of becoming law.
Introducing such a levy was a condition however for forming
a coalition imposed by Dobrindt's Christian Social Union (CSU),
sister party to Angela Merkel's conservatives in the southern
state of Bavaria, which sees a huge amount of transit traffic.
Before last September's federal election Merkel said there
would be no road toll during her tenure, although it was
ultimately included in the government's coalition agreement as a
way of financing Germany's neglected roads and bridges.
There are also concerns over whether such a toll could
comply with EU law, as it could be interpreted as discriminating
"Non-discrimination is a basic principle of EU law. It
applies to road charging as to everything else," said Helen
Kearns, spokeswoman of EU Transportation Commissioner Siim
Kallas, on Monday.
Dobrindt said on Monday he was confident the plans were
EU-compliant as all drivers, including German ones, would have
to pay. He has also said however that it would result in no
additional financial burden for German drivers.
He wants the charge, which would need approval by parliament
and the European Union, in place by Jan. 1, 2016.
Sharing a border with nine different nations, Germany has
the most neighbouring states of any European country. Austrian
Transport Minister Doris Bures has threatened to take legal
action against Germany if the toll treats foreigners
"Austria will take every legal step to ensure to stop this
discrimination of Austrian drivers... any country can levy a
toll, the most important thing is that it does not discriminate
against other states," she told Austrian broadcaster ORF.
Under the proposals, a 10-day pass will cost 10 euros, a
pass for two months would cost 20 euros. Annual passes would be
priced according to a car's emissions and size. Dobrindt said
foreign drivers would pay on average about 88 euros per year.
(Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Ralph Boulton)