February 6, 2019 / 10:56 AM / 10 months ago

EU court adviser sides against Austria over German road toll

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A planned German highway toll does not discriminate against foreign drivers, a senior adviser to the EU’s top court said on Wednesday, recommending the dismissal of a complaint by Austria.

Germany passed a law in 2015 setting in place a charge for use of the country’s highways. It is due to start by 2021.

Those with vehicles registered in Germany will automatically be charged an annual fee of up to 130 euro (114 pounds), but will benefit from a corresponding reduction in motor vehicle tax.

Drivers living outside Germany can buy temporary passes, up to a maximum of 130 euros for a year.

Austria, also backed by the Netherlands, complained that the tax relief for German residents effectively meant only foreign drivers who were truly paying the infrastructure charge.

Advocate General Nils Wahl said that the European Court of Justice should dismiss Austria’s action.

The court itself still has to rule on the case and would normally do so in two to four months. Judges typically follow the view of the advocate general, although they are not bound to do so.

Wahl said that domestic German drivers would still have to pay German motor tax and an annual highway charge, while drivers of foreign cars would not be obliged to do so.

Germany, which was supported by Denmark, was also entitled to take the view that the cost of its highway network, until now borne mainly by its taxpayers, had to be shared among all users.

Germany’s charge was in line with EU transport policy and the principle that users and polluters should pay.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Peter Graff

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