Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet has signed off on a controversial road toll, forcing foreign car drivers to pay when using German roads and highways. The draft includes a provision exempting German motorists.
Germany's center-left government on Wednesday approved two separate laws aimed at introducing a toll system on German highways and state-owned roads, while exempting German motorists from the extra costs.
The package includes an infrastructure levy, intended to help Germany fund the upkeep of its transport infrastructure. All motorists traveling on German highways and state-owned roads will have to pay it by registering their license plates via the Internet.
At gas stations, foreigners will also be able to pay the fee - a 10-day levy for 10 euros or two month for 22 euros. The fee will take into account the cylinder capacity and environmental compatibility of the car, with a maximum toll of 130 euros ($162) a year.
However, Merkel's cabinet stuck to a plan that the toll will not lead to extra costs for German drivers. A separate piece of legislation allows them to offset the levy against an already existing motor vehicle tax.
In EU crosshairs
The government expects revenues of 3.7 billion euros, of which around 3 billion euros will come from domestic drivers. With introduction costs estimated at nearly 200 million euros, the net revenue might shrink to just 500 million euros a year.
The two draft bills come after months of heated debate between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU), which devised the controversial road toll plan.
Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt - himself a senior CSU member - said he was convinced his draft laws would stand if challenged by the EU Commission because they don't discriminate against foreign motorists.
"The infrastructure fee is sensible, fair and just," he said.
On Monday, EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc expressed doubt that the legislation was in line with EU rules. She said that all drivers - Germans and foreigners alike - needed to be "treated equally," adding that this fundamental EU principle wasn't "negotiable."
uhe/el (AFP, dpa)