The Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector (EMIS) met on Monday to hear former EU commissioners (from 2010 to 2014) for the environment Janez Potočnik, and for industry and entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani.

Former Commissioner Potočnik said in his introduction that he had raised questions about the big gap between car emissions as measured during lab tests and on the road as long ago as 2011, but had never been aware of manufacturers cheating. He acknowledged that several players in the political process may not have done enough at the time to protect the public interest, including himself, the Commission, EU member states, MEPs, and the media and said that all should learn lessons for the future.


Replying to Members’ questions about his relationship with former Commissioner Tajani and rivalry between their respective services, Mr Potočnik observed that a debate in which they had supported different interests, with the shared goal of finding a good compromise solution, was perfectly normal.


Pointing out that he had started procedures against most member states on not respecting air quality standards, Mr Potočnik also said he had advocated revoking the type approval of cars that exceeded pollution limits, but that this had not been taken on board. He admitted that - with hindsight - he could have pushed harder for new type approval tests, but remained convinced that he had nevertheless achieved a lot by focusing on problems where he could influence change.


Tajani: "I was never informed on defeat devices"


In his introduction former Commissioner Antonio Tajani stressed that during his mandate he had never received any information from anybody on possible emission test “defeat devices” in cars. He denied covering up the results of Joint Research Centre tests showing which models were high polluters, noting that the survey had been done on a small sample and that the findings had to be rendered anonymous.


On removing type approval for highly polluting cars, Mr Tajani explained that legally, this was a matter for member states and their market surveillance authorities. He added that they had never informed Commission of any irregularities, which left it little scope to act, and that in other cases when the Commission had acted on its own it had always lost European Court cases brought by member states complaining that it had overreached its competences.


Next steps


The committee will meet again on Monday, 12 September, in Strasbourg when Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, and Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, will answer MEPs’ questions.