German opposition demand bungled toll contract details | News | DW | 22.06.2019
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German opposition demand bungled toll contract details

The Greens and the FDP have demanded the transport minister turn over documents pertaining to toll contracts. Scheuer awarded the contracts before the legality of the system was clear and now Germany must pay damages.

Opposition Green Party and Free Democratic Party (FDP) politicians on Saturday demanded Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer immediately hand over unredacted documents outlining contracts that he awarded to two firms involved in his scheme for autobahn tolls.

Scheuer, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has refused to turn over the documents thus far.

Green Party politicians Anton Hofreiter, Stephan Kühn, and Sven-Christian Kindler say that it will be impossible to calculate the cost of damages that must now be paid to the firms with which Scheuer finalized the contracts without seeing what they actually entail.

Read more: EU court rules against autobahn tolls

'Grossly negligent'

The toll plan collapsed on Tuesday, when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found it violated EU law by discriminating against foreign drivers. Scheuer envisioned tax breaks to German car owners as a way to offset the cost of autobahn tolls for domestic drivers.

Scheuer signed contracts with the Austrian toll operator Kapsch and the ticket maker CTS in October and December 2018. FDP transport specialist Oliver Luksic called the fact that Scheuer had signed the contracts before the legality of the system was clear, "grossly negligent."

Read more: Europe's patchy approach to road tolls

Transport Minister Scheuer may face investigation

Luksic told the Sunday edition of the German newspaper Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung that if Scheuer fails to provide the documents to the Transport and Budget Committees by next Tuesday, "We will have to contemplate setting up an investigative committee."

Green Party politician Kühn says he requested the contracts in January through a freedom of information law, but he had yet to receive them six months later. The legal deadline for turning them over was four weeks.

German taxpayers on the hook for €300 million

The German weekly magazine Spiegel reports that damages resulting from the cancellation of the contracts with Kapsch and CTS could be as high as €300 million ($342 million). That cost includes investments made by both companies, as well as compensation for lost future profits of roughly €2 billion.

Sven-Christian Kindler told German news agency DPA, "We expect a comprehensive clarification of what effect this will have on the federal budget."

Both the Transportation and Budgetary Committees are scheduled to meet on Wednesday.

js/aw (AFP, dpa)

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