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Juncker: EU may challenge German road toll on foreign drivers

The European Commission will consider a legal challenge against Germany over the new road toll law, according to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Critics argue that the toll discriminates against foreigners.

The European Commission's President Jean-Claude Juncker said in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung that the planned German road toll did not appear to conform with EU rules prohibiting discrimination against foreigners.

"The Commission, the guardian of the EU treaties, now has to explore whether the treaties have been violated - if necessary at the European Court of Justice," Juncker said.

His comments followed a report in the newspaper Die Welt on Saturday that quoted Commission sources as saying the EU planned to sue Germany over the road toll, "as it discriminates against foreign drivers and thus against EU law." According to the report, the proceedings at the European Court of Justice could begin before the start of the summer break in August.

Cramer: 'This madness must be stopped'

The head of the European Parliament's transport and tourism committee, Michael Cramer, called on German President Joachim Gauck to refuse to sign the controversial law, which cleared the lower house of parliament in March. "This madness must be stopped," Cramer was quoted as saying by the newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. In his opinion, the goal of the new road toll was "ripping off foreign motorists".

Valerie Wilms from the German Green Party said in an interview with Die Welt that she expected the European Court of Justice to rule against the road toll.

The toll, known as the "Maut" in Germany, is a project of Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt and the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.

German drivers will be obliged to buy a year's pass, costing up to 130 euros ($142) and around 74 euros on average. However, this contribution will be canceled out by a corresponding reduction in the annual vehicle road tax that German motorists pay. Foreign visitors, on the other hand, will be expected to pay without refund, with the option to buy a full year's allowance or short 10-day stints starting at 5 euros for a small car.

Critics of the toll - from both Germany, Brussels and other EU countries - argue that this aspect contravenes laws regarding the equal treatment of all EU citizens.

das/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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