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Debates
Wednesday, 13 April 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

25. Reusability, recyclability and recoverability of motor vehicles
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  President. The next item is the debate on the report by Mr Krahmer on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the type-approval of motor vehicles with regard to their re-usability, recyclability and recoverability and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC (COM(2004)0162 – C5-0126/2004 – 2004/0053(COD)) (A6-0004/2005)

 
  
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  Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. (DE) Mr President, honourable Members, the Commission is much obliged to Mr Krahmer for his report and for his unusual and considerable personal commitment to first reading of the directive on recycling.

I would like to start by recalling how the draft directive is based on the provisions of the directive on end-of-life vehicles, which your House and the Council adopted in September 2000, and which contains very ambitious goals for the recycling and reuse industry to achieve by 2015. If we are to ensure that these targets can be met, then the car manufacturers have their own contribution to make, and hence we are calling on them to build cars whose components are better able to be recycled and reused, right from the very moment at which they roll off the production line.

Many of the proposed amendments are significant in policy terms. The most important has to do with the ban on the use of heavy metals. The report inserted a clause making it mandatory to ascertain that the manufacturer has used none of the heavy metals prohibited by the end-of-life vehicles directive. This is an initiative that the Commission welcomes, in that it makes it possible to apply the provisions of the end-of-life vehicles directive systematically and uniformly, instead of leaving it to the Member States to enact national laws that might well differ one from another. This obviates interference with the smooth operation of the internal market.

Although the dates by which this directive was to be implemented, a core element in it, presented plenty of difficulties, this issue, too, eventually proved capable of resolution. It is now proposed that the directive be implemented in two stages, and the Commission endorses not only this proposal, but also the administrative simplifications that your House has proposed; I might perhaps sum up by saying that the Commission unreservedly endorses the amendments proposed by Parliament and looks forward to this text being adopted without delay.

 
  
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  Krahmer (ALDE), rapporteur. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by thanking my fellow members of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, in particular the shadow rapporteurs, for their good and constructive cooperation. Some 15 million motor vehicles come off the production lines in the EU every year, and the motor industry is one of the most important business sectors in Europe, creating jobs, encouraging innovation and vital in terms of our competitiveness. Cars, though, also produce waste, and that is what we are discussing this evening. Every year in Europe, ten million vehicles end up on the scrapheap. If cars are not piled up as high in scrap yards as they used to be and are less of a blot on the landscape, that has something to do with the considerable extent to which parts of cars can be reused and recycled.

The objective of the motor vehicle type approval directive is to lay down provisions whereby motor cars and light commercial vehicles can be constructed in such a way that they meet the minimum quotas laid down in the end-of-life vehicles directive in respect of reusability, recyclability and recoverability. The end-of-life vehicles directive imposed binding targets on manufacturers. With effect from 2006, at least 85% by mass of a car – and with effect from 2015 at least 95% of it by mass – must be recoverable and reusable or capable of being recycled. These – the 95% from 2015 onwards in particular – are very ambitious targets, for they would mean that the cars of the future would produce scarcely any waste.

Whether or not this goal is achieved will depend not only on the manufacturer’s use of certain materials, but also and primarily on the further development of recycling technology and on the definition of recyclability. There is nevertheless no disputing the fact that the recyclability of automobiles and the avoidance of waste are important objectives for Europe’s environmental policies. It is astonishing, however, that cars contribute only 1% of the total quantity of waste in the EU. The EU has made a particularly good job of minimising waste not only from packaging, electronic scrap and batteries, but also from used cars.

Let me now turn to the core issues. Although the Commission put forward an eminently respectable proposal for a directive, it was necessary for us in this House to make a number of improvements to it. Following the committee’s vote and a successful trilogue, we have put together a compromise package for agreement at first reading, backed by the three main groups in this House. This being what one might call my maiden report, I, as rapporteur, regard that as a major success.

Our joint amendments, on which we will be voting tomorrow, are aimed above all at improving the way in which the directive will be implemented, without jeopardising the achievement of the recycling targets, which are so important in terms of environmental policy. Type approval is meant to be practicable from the point of view of the competent authorities in the Member States and of the manufacturers, and to entail the minimum possible costs. The amendments also take into account important aspects of best practice in type-approval. As rapporteur, I have from the very outset been particularly concerned to maintain the distinction between the testing of new types and new models. New models are defined as automobiles that are already on the market in the EU – there are currently about 600 of them – while new types are automobiles that will come onto the market in the future, approximately 100 a year.

The intention is that priority be given to the testing of new types. Neither the authorities nor the manufacturers would be capable of doing what the Commission envisaged in its original proposal, namely testing all models in the EU within 36 months of the directive’s entry into force. The testing of new types must be given priority in order to ensure that all of those coming onto the EU market in the future comply with the binding targets as imposed by the end-of-life vehicles directive, and so the 36-month time limit proposed by the Commission should apply to new types, enabling the models already in existence to be tested thereafter. We have agreed in this House – and with the Council – on a period of 54 months, corresponding to the arithmetical mean between what the Commission originally proposed and the 72 months that I originally put forward, which itself corresponds to the life-cycle of an average automobile.

The definition of ‘reference vehicle’ is another case in point. It is good practice and avoids misunderstandings if the authority and the manufacturer select the type by mutual agreement. ‘Reference vehicle’ means the vehicle that is most problematic in terms of re-usability, recyclability and recoverability. Turning to the ban on heavy metals, I am glad to be able to say that we have been able to agree that the prohibition of heavy metals should be referred to under the heading of the preliminary assessment rather than that of type-approval, where it does not belong. It is in any case my view that the Commission had good reasons for refraining from banning heavy metals in its original proposal, for heavy metals are already prohibited by many other items of legislation.

We did have a problem with one amendment from the Council, which reached us, so to speak, just before close of play, and which was intended to permit the comitology procedure through another back door. Parliament fought to get amendments to the end-of-life vehicles directive treated as legislation rather than as implementing measures, and so we could not accept the possibility of making technical adjustments to the end-of-life vehicles directive without reference to this House. I am glad that, in the trilogue, the Council and the Commission eventually agreed to that. This is a step in the right direction, towards more democracy and transparency in the process whereby European laws are made.

Let me close by returning to the subject of regulation. Automobiles are, in the EU, regulated to an extraordinary degree. When enacting legislation, we must always consider that it will have to be implemented in places that are a long way from Brussels and Strasbourg. We have to consider the businesses that will ultimately be affected by it. Commissioner Verheugen, what I now say is addressed to you personally. I particularly welcome your initiative where the assessment of legislation’s impact is concerned and am glad that, in your role as industry commissioner, you have rediscovered your liberal roots. It is important that new directives and regulations, particularly those relating to the protection of the environment and of consumers, should in future be subject to checks to ascertain what effect they have on competitiveness. Existing directives must be examined in order to be capable of being implemented quickly in the Member States. When considering future regulations, though, we must, as a matter of priority, ensure that they really do help to protect the environment rather than entailing more bureaucracy.

Thank you, Commissioner, for your kind words.

 
  
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  Hoppenstedt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I see that the presence of the acting President means that the MEPs’ team is one man up on the Commission’s. That is in any case quite astonishing on an evening like this. Mr Krahmer has described his report with great clarity and very comprehensively, and I do not propose to go through it in detail again.

I just want to say that it is, ultimately, the amendments that have made this report, which we are sending on its way, the work of us all, for we told Mr Krahmer that our discussions with the Council and the Commission had resulted in agreement, thanks to the amendments which essentially constitute the heart of this report. I am sure that a large majority will tomorrow give its backing to this report, for the three major groups have endorsed it.

This directive takes as its basis the used cars directive and has a preventive effect, enabling the automobile industry to guarantee recyclability in the future. It is a huge triumph if 95% of a car is capable of being recycled or reused, and a positive quantum leap if one thinks back to the first debates that we had back at the beginning of the 1990s.

I am also very grateful to the automobile industry for helping to put this directive together, for communication with this industry – one of enormous importance for Europe – is vital if long-term competitiveness is to be guaranteed. I am also sure that those who at present export to us from South-East Asia, as well as those in China and elsewhere from whom we will be importing vehicles in future, will be obliged to abide by these rules and apply them. It will be difficult enough to implement and monitor these preventive measures there, but it will send an important message about how to continue to compete across the board with the European automobile industry.

 
  
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  Corbey, on behalf of the PSE Group. (NL) Mr President, tomorrow we will be approving an amended proposal that will ensure that motor vehicles are designed so that they can be recycled properly at the end of their life cycle. The need to take account of the end of the life cycle when designing new motor vehicles has its origins in the early 1990s, in the Netherlands amongst others, when bilateral agreements were concluded between manufacturers and the authorities. European manufacturers have now gained a huge amount of experience of recycling. The manufacturers estimate the costs of the recycling obligation at an average of EUR 30 per vehicle, but the industry will very quickly recoup these costs. The prices of raw materials are rising explosively, mainly because of the huge demand from China. Rising costs of raw materials are making recycling particularly profitable. With this environmental innovation Europe is also gaining an edge on its competitors, because there are no recycling regulations in either Japan or the United States. Our group can accept the amended proposal and in any event heartily thanks the rapporteur. I would like to offer the apologies of the shadow rapporteur who could not be here this evening.

I would like to take the opportunity today to look at the motor industry in rather broader terms. At the beginning of this year the High Level Group on CARS 21 was set up. The role of this High Level Group is to formulate recommendations for the European motor industry. Above all this is about competitiveness and employment, but also safety and environmental performance. Let me say first that I am a great advocate of the sectoral approach. The Lisbon process must be put into practice within sectors. With the CARS 21 initiative the European Commission is moving in the right direction, but I am afraid that the setting up of the High Level Group at the end of the journey will prove to be nothing more than a deregulation operation for the benefit of the motor industry, the scrapping of tiresome rules in the area of environment and social protection under the guise of improvements in competitiveness. I would therefore urge that we look further ahead and to show more ambition because environment and competitiveness are not inconsistent with one another; on the contrary, they reinforce one another. A branch of industry that constantly achieves better environmental performance improves its worldwide competitive position. I am convinced that environmentally friendly motor vehicles are essential for a viable European motor industry. This is why I have taken the initiative to set up a Low Level Group on Cars. In the spirit of the Lisbon objective employment, competitiveness and a cleaner environment will take centre stage in the Low Level Group. Together with interested fellow Members I shall be drafting a number of recommendations that I shall present to the responsible commissioners and to the High Level Group in July.

Which way should the European motor industry go? The motor sector has gradually made a lot of progress in the area of environment and safety, but is that the right way for the future? I think that we must reflect together in Europe on the motor vehicle of the future. This motor vehicle will in any event be lighter, smaller, more economic and more efficient. It will also be the basis of a modern, competitive and environmentally friendly motor industry. The rising prices of raw materials are making recycling and reuse of materials profitable and the technological progress in this area can contribute greatly to a good competitive position for the European motor industry.

 
  
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  Seeber (PPE-DE). (DE) Mr President, for one moment, I thought you had forgotten me. It is to me that the honour falls of being the last speaker and bringing today’s long sitting of the House to an end. Let me remind you that today has seen us voting – favourably, as it turned out – on Bulgaria and Romania, both of which possess major motor industries and are directly affected by the directive we are discussing. This proposal is of immediate relevance to product-based environmental protection, as members of the public use motorcars and light utility vehicles almost every day.

I would also like to point out that we have laid down rules elsewhere – in particular in the exhaust gas regulations – applicable to immediate effects on the environment, and to ask the Commission to get to work quickly, particularly where the Euro 5 exhaust gas standard is concerned, in order that these exhaust gases may be reduced in Europe too. I would remind them of the fine dust that is now polluting German cities in particular and is causing a number of problems.

While the approach chosen is one that is, in principle, to be welcomed, the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats saw certain points as being particularly important. For a start, it is self-evident that the requirements for the components to be used must not present any risk to the public – by which we mean both drivers and pedestrians. It follows that the materials used must be both recyclable and safe, which does of course also mean that there is a need for more intensive materials research in Europe if we are to retain our leading position on the world market.

Secondly, the procedures and rules must be straightforward, transparent and practicable. What that means is that the authorities and car manufacturers must consult together in choosing one vehicle as being representative, in that it presents the greatest problems in terms of pollution. It makes no sense and would no doubt also be too bureaucratic to repeat the whole test on vehicles with only a few additional features.

Deadlines must be ambitious but also, of course, realistic, for it would make little sense to require too many alterations to existing models that are already reaching the end of their economic life cycle. This sort of environmental protection makes sense and can benefit both the public and industry.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12 noon.

I am grateful to all of the speakers and to the Vice-President of the Commission for their participation.

 
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