It seemed to be a done deal, but the Europe-wide end of combustion engines from 2035 is just around the corner, well, before the end. At least in its current form.
A few days before the final vote in the Council of Ministers, Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) abruptly slammed on the brakes, actually purely as a matter of form: he calls for combustion engines to be approved in new cars beyond 2035 if they can be shown to be powered by synthetic fuels, so-called e-fuels. be refueled. FDP leader Christian Lindner also wants that. If Brussels does not make a corresponding proposal, the Liberals demand, Germany will not be able to agree.
The announced resistance obviously has consequences: The final vote, which was planned for next Tuesday at the sidelines of a meeting of EU education ministers, has now been postponed, as a spokesman for the responsible Swedish presidency announced on Friday. Now a solution to the muddled situation is likely to be struggled behind the scenes.
Further details on the postponement were not initially known, but the process suggests the importance attached to the German position on this issue. This could actually be decisive for whether the project succeeds or not - although the Federal Republic could not veto it, as the impression was recently created.
The unanimity principle in the European Union applies in a few cases, when voting on the combustion engine off, a qualified majority is sufficient: If 15 of 27 member states, which together make up at least 65 percent of the total EU population, vote for the law, it is considered adopted. If this majority is not achieved, renegotiations would have to take place.
A scenario that became more likely with Wissing's advance. Although the Minister of Transport could not have stopped the project on his own, he could have caused Germany to abstain in the vote: If the coalition cannot agree on a common position, then Germany will abstain. This is according to the rules of procedure of the federal government.
Germany's abstention might have had a domino effect. The countries Poland and Bulgaria, which are considered shaky candidates, would probably have tipped over in this case, Italy has already announced that it will vote against it. This means that the necessary majority would not have been achieved and the proposal would have been rejected.
The planned end of combustion engines was actually a foregone conclusion. As early as October last year, the EU Parliament and all member states (including Germany) agreed that from 2035 only new vehicles would be permitted that do not emit carbon dioxide (CO2) - new combustion cars would then be history.
However, the federal government - as agreed in the coalition agreement - had campaigned for e-fuels as an exception, but was largely alone in this in Europe. Ultimately, the agreement reached contained a test order from the EU Commission, according to which an open-ended examination should be carried out to determine whether vehicles with e-fuel-capable combustion engines could still be approved in the future.
Lindner and Wissing accuse the Commission of not seriously trying to find an exception. Consequently, Germany could not finally approve the EU plans under these circumstances. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Bündnis90/Die Grünen), on the other hand, warned that the federal government had to stick to the promises it had made. The SPD was also upset about the blockade attitude. Apparently, there is still a need for discussion, not only in Brussels.