Blog: Dave LeggettEU muddle

Dave Leggett | 29 September 2008

The process of turning the will of the people into legislation is, for the EU, not exactly straightforward or transparent. It's little wonder that many people view the EU and its institutions as some kind of necessary evil, but with little real idea of how it functions and what it achieves - beyond popular notions of bureaucrats devising arcane standards applying to things like the length of bananas. Outside of the recent entrants who view it as some sort of right of nationhood passage or bonanza, the EU and its bloated, self-serving secretariat, the European Commission, are seen as an inevitable constant fact of life. Like death and taxes.

The row over CO2 and the auto industry is another good example of how the EU ties itself into unhelpful knots. Whatever the rights and wrongs of what is a reasonable target, the debate is reduced to what looks like a polarisation of viewpoints with national interests looming very large behind the debate, as is so often the case. And if you ask people in the street about 120g/km you will probably find very little understanding or indeed interest in the subject from the overwhelming majority. The arguments on both sides don't seem to me to have been presented very clearly. There's a 'green lobby' versus an 'industry lobby'. 

Vehicle manufacturers are constantly moving in the right direction with technical refinements that make cars more efficient. And the momentum for that has got greater as oil prices have increased and customers themselves have demanded better fuel efficiency. Why is the EU even involved with this - why not let markets and competitive pressures move the industry in the right direction, helped by national taxation levers, if that's what people want?

And if the EU is involved in it, can the process and what it means please be made a little clearer? It sounds to me like there's still plenty of argument ahead, German industrialists versus those who believe that these arbitrary limits make a real difference (in the broad scheme of things, they simply don't, but they can at least send a signal I suppose). A fine democracy? We hardly have that at national level. Take it to the dysfunctional mish-mash that is Brussels and it gets worse. I have heard some right horror stories on grants and let's not go there.

Accountability? Sadly absent. Can you even name your MEP? I'll have to pass on that one. 

So, 120g/km on 2012, 120 on '15, or 130 on either '12 or '15? Ask your MEP if you can find him/her and can be bothered to explain it. Will they really know what they are voting for or against? (Sorry to sound like such a cynic, I'd really rather not.)  

GERMANY: Enviro minister backs auto industry


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