EU acts against Germany, UK and five others countries over Volkswagen diesel scandal

The EU initiated action yesterday against Germany, the UK and five other member states for failing to police emissions cheating by car makers following the Volkswagen diesel scandal.

As frustration mounts in Brussels over what EU officials consider as governments colluding with the powerful car industry, the EC is taking recourse to its strongest measure in a bid to force nations to crack down on health-harming nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel cars.

German officials, who have maintained that EU law was poorly framed had not expected Brussels to take on the EU's leading power and also its biggest car manufacturer, especially with the unity of the bloc on test by Eurosceptics and the UK's vote to leave.

The action yesterday comes as a sign that the EU  executive, was coming under pressure from the European Parliament, in order to prove its worth to voters, according to commentators.

Germany, the UK, Spain and Luxembourg stood accused of not taking the kind of action Volkswagen had faced in the US over its use of illegal "defeat device" software to mask real-world NOx emissions blamed for respiratory illnesses and early deaths.

Reacting to the announcement, German Transport minister Alexander Dobrindt said, "Germany is the only European country to have implemented a comprehensive list of measures to prevent unauthorised use of defeat devices," Reuters reported.

EU law was framed in almost identical language as US rules to ensure carmakers did not use software intended to deceive regulators on emissions. The 28-nation bloc, however, had nothing like the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce regulations, which was left to member states, which also determined the penalties. Also no system for mandatory Europewide recalls of defective vehicles had been put into place.

According to the commission, the UK and Germany also broke the law by refusing to share information gathered by their national authorities while investigating ''irregularities'' concerning nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel cars made by Volkswagen and other manufacturers.

Czech Republic, Greece and Lithuania still needed to pass legislation making it possible to penalise automakers for using such cheating methods, the commission said.

''Abiding by the law is first and foremost the duty of car manufacturers,'' Elzbieta Bienkowska, the European commissioner for industry, said in a statement. ''But national authorities across the EU must ensure that car manufacturers actually comply with the law.''