Commission and Parliament clash over gigaliners
By Isabelle Smets | Friday 15 June 2012
Siim Kallas, the commissioner for transport, reached a decision on gigaliners – mega trucks that can reach up to 60 tonnes: they will be allowed to cross the border between two member states that authorise them on their territory. On 13 June, Kallas addressed a letter to the member states and to the Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport (TRAN), Brian Simpson (S&D, UK). Simpson’s response was very prompt – it was sent on 14 June, according to sources – and suggests a battle between the Commission and Parliament – perhaps even a legal one – is on the cards.
Kallas’s decision reinterprets Directive 96/53/EC on the weight and dimension of vehicles. This directive offers the member states an exception to the prescribed weight and size of trucks in force in the EU to authorise the circulation of gigaliners in national traffic. Until now, the interpretation of this was that it did not allow the cross-border circulation of these trucks, even between two member states that authorise them, and that only a legislative amendment could change things.
This is what Parliament is up in arms about: by unilaterally interpreting the directive, the Commission is taking Parliament out of the equation in a matter that would normally be settled by co-decision procedure. Parliament is already riled about the Schengen case (see
Europolitics 4444) and MEPs have no intention to take this lying down. “I’m sure that the European Parliament will act to protect its rights on this issue under co-decision,” Simpson responded to Kallas. Simpson has also already informed the President of the EP, Martin Schulz, of this development, and has organised a meeting between the coordinators of the TRAN committee, on 18 June. In his letter to Simpson, Kallas explains that gigaliners will from now on be allowed to cross the border between two states that both authorise them on their territories. These exceptions to the general rule «should be applied reasonably so that their use does not lead to an exceptional practice becoming the norm».
This interpretation of the directive should have been made public in late February, at a conference jointly organised by the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the Danish Presidency of the Council. But MEPs, having heard about the case, did not at all appreciate having been sidelined and having been informed after the industry. That was 26 March, and beyond the content of the dossier, MEPs made it clear to Kallas that they would not accept co-decision not being respected (4394). The commissioner merely wanted to wait for the air to clear by postponing his decision by four months but Simpon’s immediate reaction shows that the storm is still in the air.
‘A battle between the Commission and Parliament - perhaps a legal one - is on the cards’