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The governments of the 27 have agreed on Monday in Brussels to try to soften the conditions and the entry into force of what is known as "Euro 7" regulations to reduce polluting emissions from cars, vans and trucks. "The automotive industry is facing unprecedented challenges related to the consequences of the war in Ukraine, limited access to raw materials and the significant increase in energy prices," explained the Minister of Industry, Héctor Gómez, who was in charge of directing the session when Spain holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. "Given these factors, it has been particularly important to find a middle ground between the need to improve air quality and protect human health, on the one hand, and to keep the European automotive industry competitive on the world stage, on the other," explained Gómez.

Today's guidance from ministers does not prejudge the final outcome, because the process is still under way. The details being discussed are essentially technical. But the background could not be more political. In the EU the process is not like in a country. The European Commission, which has the legislative initiative, is the one that makes the proposals for directives, and the one that presented in November its ideas to update the Euro 6 regulation and move to Euro 7. From that moment on, two procedures began in parallel. On the one hand, the Council, that is, the ministers of the 27 countries, began to discuss among themselves in order to establish their own position. On the other, MEPs do the same. Today, the ministers of the sector have agreed on a line, which advocates delaying the entry into force of these regulations from 2025 that was originally on the table until 2027 in the case of cars, and 2029 for trucks. And when the European Parliament closes its own position, the so-called 'trilogues' will begin, the final negotiation to give the green light.

In general, the 27 maintain the guidelines proposed by the European Commission. And in addition, the objectives that were agreed at the time for the gradual reduction of emissions and the definitive prohibition of the sale of combustion vehicles in 2035 are maintained. What is being fought, amid pressure from industry and NGOs, is the path, certain thresholds, dates and issues such as new particulate limits for brakes and tyres to mitigate CO2 emissions from vehicles and the release of particulate pollutants, something that will remain essential beyond 2035.

The initial proposal presented by the European Commission had the frontal opposition of a block of eight countries (France, Italy, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia), which in response to the requests, demands or complaints of the Industry and its powerful lobby denounced that the additional costs of this regulation would be very harmful. Especially since the transition to meet the ultimate goal in 12 years was already complicated. So those countries advocate not putting additional obstacles that could distract from the most important goal.

The proposal for a Regulation on the type-approval of motor vehicles and engines, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles, covers for the first time passenger cars, vans and heavy-duty vehicles in a single legal act. The general approach of the ministers' agreement maintains the existing emission limits and test conditions for light-duty vehicles. In the case of heavy-duty vehicles, the emission limits are lower and the test conditions are slightly adapted to the Commission's proposal.

The Council suggests a number of "pragmatic changes". Thus, it maintains "the existing test conditions and emission limits" according to what was already set by Euro 6, for private cars and vans. In the case of M2 and M3 vehicles (buses and coaches), and N2 and N3 vehicles (heavy commercial vehicles), the emission limits would be somewhat lower and the test conditions would be "adjusted slightly, compared to Euro 6/VI", says the agreement. "It also sets clear deadlines for the adoption of implementing acts (by the Commission) in order to provide economic operators with clarity and legal certainty," the ministers say.

According to the Spanish presidency, in the words of Héctor Gómez, the agreed text enjoys a "carefully balanced compromise" between environmental protection and industrial health and competitiveness. The next phase will be in a few weeks or months, no longer under the Spanish presidency, in the hope of reaching an agreement before the end of the European legislature in spring, just before the June 2024 elections.

  • European Commission
  • Ukraine
  • European Union
  • Environment
  • Cars
  • Climate change
  • Europe