Germany will begin charging foreign motorists a road toll in 2016, the country’s transportation minister has announced.
Alexander Dobrindt told reporters in Berlin today (7 May) that his ministry has calculated that the measure would bring in about €600 million of extra revenue, which will be invested in German roads.
Though Germans would have to pay the toll initially, they would later be reimbursed. Foreign drivers would not. European Union law forbids member states from discriminating against EU citizens from a different member state.
In a statement reacting to the announcement, the European Commission said that “until all the details are known and discussed there can be no green or red light from Brussels.”
“If undertaken in the wider context of introducing road charging to secure infrastructure financing, [the toll] should not be directly aimed at discriminating against foreign drivers. Everybody should pay a fair share for using and maintaining roads. The minister appears to try to take this into account, but we would need to see the details.”
Other member states have also warned Germany that they would challenge a toll that applied specifically to foreign drivers. Doris Bures, Austria’s transportation minister, told Austrian radio that she would “use all legal means” to block the move. “If Germany thinks it can discriminate against Austrian drivers, this will be met with my resistance,” she said.
The drivers association FIA also criticised the move.“If Germany goes forward with this scheme as it has been proposed, we risk seeing additional member states set up retaliatory measures, meaning that cross-border travel within Europe could become unnecessarily expensive and confusing for consumers,” said Jacob Bangsgaard, director-general of FIA Region I. “Road pricing is a contentious topic for motorists as they are severely taxed and the funds collected already pay for the infrastructure that they use.”
The plan will need to be submitted to the Commission for approval. Earlier this year Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy from Germany, criticised the government’s plans to introduce the toll. He is expected to remain as Germany’s commissioner for the 2014-19 term.