Hofmeister Hannes Herbert Viktor - Free University of Bolzano/Bozen

G. v. 18.05.2017 BGBl. I S. 1218 (Nr. 29) - Entry into force: 25 May 2017

The so-called Infrastructure fee law entered into force on 12 June 2015. However, its practical implementation has been put on hold until May 2017 due to an infringement procedure initiated by the EU Commission under Article 258 et seq. TFEU. An agreement on the changes necessary to ensure compliance with EU law has been reached in December 2016. The amendments made include the following:

- First, the Infrastructure fee law establishing the road fee was amended in order to allow for five different categories of vehicles (instead of three categories envisaged under the old scheme). This will provide the opportunity for a better differentiation of the road charge on the basis of environmental criteria. ‘The price of short-term vignettes – which are typically bought by foreign drivers – was reduced in relation to the annual rate. For the most environmentally friendly cars, a short-term vignette (for 10 days) costs only € 2.50, which is significantly less than € 5 originally proposed in 2015.

- Second, the vehicle tax is once again amended in order to ensure that the most environmentally friendly vehicles are given particularly favourable treatment in the annual vehicle tax’ (EU Commission, Press release 1 December 2016). In summary, environmentally friendly cars are now charged less and short term fees for foreign cars were reduced.

In light of these developments, the European Commission halted proceedings in February 2017, paving the way for the practical implementation of the law. However, the case will only be formally closed once the amending German legislation taking into account the Commission's legal concerns is adopted. This “compromise” between the Commission and the German government was subject to severe criticism by the European Parliament in a separate resolution because the most controversial aspect – the tax relief for German car owners – still exists. This ’inofficial political compromise’ (between Germany and the Commission) does not render the arrangement lawful – the task of deciding whether or not sth. is lawful is not up for the Commission to decide but rather for the ECJ under Article 19 EU.

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