BELGIUM: EC stresses 'urgency' as all 28 states meet to discuss Mercedes air conditioner refrigerant
European Union trade commissioner, Antonio Tajani, is stressing "urgent" action is needed by all members of the European Union (EU) to find a solution to the air conditioning refrigerant impasse that has seen several Mercedes-Benz models blocked in France.
All 28 member States in the guise of road safety authorities of the European Union are currently holding rapidly-convened talks in Brussels to find a way through the dispute that has seen Mercedes-Benz A, B and CLA models being refused certification in France.
The vehicles have not been issued registration certificates by France's Systeme d'Immatriculation des Vehicules (SIV) authority as Paris takes issue with Mercedes' use of r134a refrigerant as opposed to the lower CO2-producing r1234yf alternative.
[R134a replaced freon R12 in the early 1990s due to ozone layer concerns. Handling procedures were also improved with refrigerant recycling and reuse becoming more common - ed]
Mercedes maintains under certain conditions r1234yf can be ignited in extreme situations, but producer, Honeywell, insists its product is safe and points to a European directive mandating the coolant with a global warming potential of less than 150.
"There is a meeting that started at 10:00 [CET] and will end this afternoon," a spokeswoman for EC vice president, responsible for trade, Antonio Tajani, told just-auto from Brussels. "It is all 28 member states."
It is not yet clear if transport ministers are also present at the meeting, but the fact all 28 states, including new member Croatia, which only formally joined the European Union this month, are present, indicates how the row has moved swiftly up the political agenda.
To add weight to the politicisation of the argument, Tajani issued a statement ahead of the meeting, highlighting the mobile air conditioning (MAC) directive, indicating which way the commission was leaning in the Franco-German spat that has now brought in the German road safety authority, the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA).
The KBA is currently testing the r1234yf refrigerant and, although not responsible for testing chemicals itself, is tasked with certifying car safety.
"The commission has the duty to ensure European Union law is fully and uniformly applied throughout the EU's internal market, so a level playing field and fair competition conditions are respected for all economic operators," said Tajani.
"[The] directive requires, inter alia, to use in the air-conditioning systems refrigerants with a limited global warming potential. The refrigerant (HFO 1234yf) chosen by industry to be used on MAC to fulfil the obligations of this directive has been considered unsafe by one German manufacturer that continued to use old refrigerant with a much higher air polluting potential."
Tajani added the EC was informed this month of France's decision to take temporary measures with regard to registration of vehicles that he noted could be "in a situation of non-conformity" with the MAC directive.
"Article 29 of the framework directive provides for the possibility for member states to adopt temporary safeguard measures, if some conditions are met and a specific procedure is followed." said the EU commissioner.
"If this procedure is triggered, the commission may consider the French initiative within this framework.
"I invite member states to assist the commission in finding concrete and urgent solutions to re-establish conformity in the internal market to the advantage of all economic operators.