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The updated EU regulations on the type-approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles stepped into force on September 1. They raise the bar on quality and emission standards for carmakers selling their products on the EU market and allow for more rigorous checks on vehicles already in use. 

EU adopted the legislation two years ago after it has been revealed that the German automotive company Volkswagen installed illegal software (“defeat devices”) in its diesel vehicles to nominally alter their emissions during laboratory testing while keeping the real-world output of the dangerous nitrogen oxide well above the legally accepted norms.

The most important provision of the new regulation, however, is the introduction of an EU-wide type-approval framework enforced by the authorities of particular Member States. According to the new legislation, starting September 1, all EU countries commit themselves to carry out regular checks on a particular number of vehicles already in use to ensure that their systems, components, and separate technical units comply with the relevant EU requirements. Such activity will be the obligation market surveillance authorities appointed by each Member State.

Ministry of Infrastructure is lagging behind on implementing the EU law

We asked the Ministry of Infrastructure which Polish institution will be tasked with surveilling the auto market, how much money has been allocated in this year’s state budget for mandatory inspections, and how much will it be next year.

It turns out, all of it is still shrouded in mystery. “Currently, the Inter-ministerial Committee on Compliance Assessment Systems Reform and Market Surveillance working under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Development is looking at the Polish market surveillance system. One of its objectives includes appointing the appropriate market surveillance authorities in the areas where they still have not been appointed, including the one indicated by the regulation (EU) 2018/858 of May 30, 2018 [on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles]” – the spokesperson for the Ministry of Infrastructure, Szymon Huptyś, told us. Yet, he did not indicate when the process of appointing the market surveillance authorities will be completed. He also failed to explain why the Law and Justice government has been postponing the appointment for two years since the EU legislation was passed.

Jakub Fryś, the President of the Polish Association of Automotive Industry (PZPM) which brings together representatives of automobile manufacturers active on the Polish market is surprised by the information as well. Mr. Fryś was convinced that the authority responsible for market surveillance will be Technical Transportation Supervision (TDT), i.e., an institution that, according to the Polish traffic law, is the official authority responsible for carrying out activities related to type-approval of vehicles, their systems, and components. –I’m not aware of any other institution better qualified to carry out market surveillance than TDT – he told us.

Playing into the hands of fraudsters  

The EU regulation on type-approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles is yet another legislative effort aimed at improving the quality of air, diminishing environmental risks, and ensuring greater traffic safety- issues the Law and Justice government chooses to ignore or even boycott. 

So far, Poland has failed to implement the 2014 EU directive on the technical roadside inspection of the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles, although the deadline passed already in 2017. 

In this specific case, the Ministry of Infrastructure prepared a draft bill also foreseeing a reform of the existing vehicle inspection stations- an action demanded by the Supreme Audit Office twice during the PO-PSL coalition government (2007-2015). 

However, the draft bill supposed to implement the EU directive was completely shut down by the opposition in the lower house of the parliament (Sejm). Following an unexpected proposal issued by the President of the Law and Justice party, Jarosław Kaczyński, the debate on the draft bill was suspended indefinitely before its third and last reading. And since Poles have elected a new Sejm in autumn of last year, the work on such legislation will have to start from scratch. 

Brussels’ approach to Poland’s evident efforts to boycott the regulations is surprisingly lenient. The legislation was supposed to improve road safety and eliminate cars producing excessive amounts of toxic fumes. Given the delays in implementing the directive, last year, the European Commission has threatened Poland with bringing the issue to the EU Court of Justice. Yet, so far, the EC has not delivered on its threat. 

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