Was ECJ right to rule against German road toll?
The ECJ has upheld an appeal by Austria against Germany's autobahn toll - declaring that it violates EU law. The judges ruled that the planned toll would discriminate against drivers from outside Germany because German drivers would be able to deduct the costs through the country's car tax system. In Europe's press the decision meets with widespread approval.
No preferential treatment for big countries
The German road toll deserves to scrapped, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes:
“The ruling is an embarrassment for the CSU and the grand coalition, who pushed through this project even though from the start it was foisted on them by the Bavarians and the costs and effort were in no reasonable proportion to the benefits. The ruling is important for two reasons: it shows that the court won't simply let every clever scheme go through that is supposedly just about acceptable from a purely legal point of view. For once the judicial power has shown its teeth to the executive power here. And secondly it shows that large countries like Germany can't count on everyone turning a blind eye when it breaches EU law as flagrantly as it did with the road toll.”
A stop sign against discrimination
Austria has no cause to gloat after the ruling, Kurier remarks:
“Not just we Austrians can be thankful that the court in Luxembourg examined the issue very closely and put up a stop sign. For the Bavarian CSU the ruling is a major defeat. It gave birth to the controversial autobahn tolls according to the motto 'Germans first' in an election campaign. But we must be wary of gloating: Austria's own turquoise-blue government has initiated a new law that will also have to pass the anti-discrimination test: the child benefit index [payments are reduced if the children live outside Austria]. There are rumours in Brussels that a complaint is about to be filed with the ECJ.”
The AfD will rail against the ruling
Lidové noviny reacts ambivalently to the ECJ's ruling:
“Germany can't push through everything it wants to. That includes the plans for everyone to pay a toll on its motorways, but with German drivers being reimbursed. Certainly, the ruling will play right into the hands of the far right. Now the AfD will be able to shout even louder that a non-elected EU body is running roughshod over decisions taken by a sovereign state. What's more, it's wishful thinking to imagine that the Greens won't press ahead with plans to make drivers' lives more difficult. That said, however, this system of German autobahn liberalism - the last bastion of driver freedom in Europe - will survive for a while yet.”