EU in legal challenge against German road toll plan

Berlin highway at dusk - file pic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Germany wants to use the new charges to help pay for road maintenance

Germany has postponed the introduction of a controversial road toll scheme after the European Commission took legal action against it.

The Commission argues that the new road charge discriminates against foreign drivers. It has sent Germany a warning, which can be escalated to a court case.

Germany planned to introduce the scheme in 2016, but it has now been postponed.

The annual toll fee would be up to €130 (£93; $146). But Germans would get €74 refunded through a cut in vehicle tax.

The new scheme - called "Pkw-Maut" - would make drivers pay to use the famous Autobahn network and other major highways.

Drivers would have to display a windscreen sticker as proof of having paid the toll.

The German government argues that Pkw-Maut could generate €500m annually to spend on road infrastructure.

But a Commission statement said the scheme "burdens EU-foreigners more than German users".

Foreign drivers - many of them tourists - have the option of buying cheaper short-term stickers, but the Commission says the price is still "disproportionally high".

The Commission favours instead "proportional, distance-based user charges, which better reflect the user and polluter pays principles, to support infrastructure maintenance".

The Commission said its interventions had worked previously in Austria and Slovenia, where similar road toll schemes had been revised to avoid discrimination.

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