The Corner

Bravo, Angela!

The German chancellor shows David Cameron how it’s done.

The Financial Times:

The EU has bowed to pressure from Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, to postpone an agreement on tougher curbs on auto emissions that have been fiercely contested by carmakers of Europe’s largest economy.

The FT sniffs:

The delay is the latest in EU policy hold-ups that diplomats attribute to Germany’s focus on parliamentary elections scheduled for September 22.

Inconvenient business, democracy.

The FT:

Officials from the European parliament and national governments on Monday agreed legislation introducing new emissions curbs, and the deal was to have been endorsed by EU governments on the sidelines of the summit on Thursday. But Enda Kenny, prime minister of Ireland, the holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, took the unusual step of removing the emissions deal from the agenda after a personal appeal from Ms Merkel on the eve of the meeting. Ms Merkel phoned Mr Kenny after German diplomats were unable to secure sufficient support from fellow member states to block the legislation or amend it to their satisfaction. Germany’s heavy-handed tactics have sparked anger among governments that support the new rules, which have been fought over for years and require automakers to limit their fleets’ average carbon dioxide emissions to 95 grammes-per-kilometre by 2020….Germany’s premium automakers, such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, have been particular opponents of the policy because it places a greater burden on their heavier and more powerful products….

I’m sure that the elections do indeed have a lot to do with it, and there is a clear possibility that the Chancellor will agree to some new ‘compromise’ once they are  over. Nevertheless it is clear that Merkel saw that a piece of EU legislation was going to have a disproportionate effect on a key German industry and she blocked it. The contrast with the ineffective David Cameron’s failure to protect Britain’s financial sector (indirectly and directly perhaps some 14% of GDP) is striking.

The FT report also throws an interesting light on how national rivalries continue to operate beneath the cover of the EU flag.

France, Italy, Denmark and others mounted a furious counter-attack on Thursday morning, but diplomats involved in the discussions said Paris cut a deal with Berlin to delay discussion – possibly until after the German elections – as long as the substance was not changed.

France, Italy and Denmark, eh? Noble fighters for a lower carbon world? Well, the Danes perhaps. Denmark’s foreign minister, Villy Søvndal, has a long history of speaking out on the environment (for some unfair, mean-spirited fun check out his speech to the Copenhagen climate change conference here).  But the French? The Italians?

The FT continues:

French and Italian manufacturers produce smaller cars that would be hit less by the new standards.

In other words, the French and the Italian manufacturers would be able to use regulation to trump their German competitors,. That’s an old trick, not exactly unknown in this country, but wrapped up this time in green camouflage.   As for the Danes, well, they don’t really have a car industry to defend one way or another. But their go-karts will be fine.

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