Tomorrow, Tuesday 7 March, should have been the day of the final vote on the stop to the registration and sale of combustion cars from 2035. Instead, the Swedish presidency of the EU Council had to take note of the opposition of some important countries and postpone the final vote of a process that began with the Commission’s proposal on 14 July 2021 to a later date.
The block of the No
Poland and Italy have announced that they will vote against, something reaffirmed yesterday by Enterprise Minister Adolfo Urso, while the Bulgaria he said he will abstain (abstention counts as a vote against). But it is obviously Germany that makes the front solid, the leading country of the EU, which needs to find a synthesis between often non-aligned positions in the Socialist-Green-Liberal government alliance. After the Minister of Transport Volker Wissingliberal, was the same leader of the FDP, Christian Lindner, to explicitly say that its goal is that “cars with internal combustion engines can be registered in Germany after 2035”, reports the Hamburger Abendblatt. Without Italy, Poland, Germany and Bulgaria only about 58% of the EU population is in favor, less than the 65% required by the qualified majority (the other condition, at least 15 member states, is instead satisfied, because there are 23 in favour).
What can happen
A reopening of the text, negotiated and agreed upon for some time, is very difficult to imagine. Germany has indicated that it wants the Commission to move forward a proposal on the use of e-fuels, other than biofuels: e-fuels, such as e-methane, e-kerosene and e-methanol, are fuels in gaseous or liquid form produced from renewable electricity (solar or wind energy, for example) or decarbonised. The Commission has underlined, through its spokespersons, the “novelty” of the concerns that have emerged among the Member States and has said that it will now study the best way to proceed.
On the political level, it is quite clear that the victory of the Fdi-driven center-right in Italy, which is a large EU country, changes the balance in Brussels, even if it is difficult to think that today’s postponement is the prelude to a profound revision of the text. Now, however, the German Liberals, struggling as junior partners in a left-leaning coalition, have found a side in the Council in two countries governed by the ECR, the Conservatives, which are the Italy of Giorgia Meloni and Poland of Mateusz Morawiecki.
After all, perplexities about the regulation, at least in Italy, are by no means exclusive to the right and the centre-right: the former president of the European Commission Romano Prodiwho knows companies well, also recently explained why he believes it is wrong to focus on such an ambitious goal, which risks crippling the automotive supply chain, especially in Italy, and accentuating Europe’s dependence on raw materials and supplies outside the EU.
And even the Commissioner for the Economy Paul Gentiloniwho by personal history is far from insensitive to environmental issues (he directed Nuova Ecologia, the Legambiente magazine for 8 years) and is a great supporter of the validity of the Green Deal, the other evening in Brussels, on the occasion of the presentation of Angela Mauro’s latest book, he noted, quoting Giuliano Ferrara, that it is advisable to be cautious when touching “the house and the car”.
The Italian supply chain
The problem is, among other things, that the Italian automotive supply chain is, at least in part, linked to the internal combustion engine and an accelerated transition to full electric is likely to have a significant impact, also in terms of employment, especially on SMEs in Northern Italy. Today the Commission, when questioned on the point, gave a vague answer, without providing precise estimates of the jobs that would be lost (sector associations have estimated losses of around 500,000 jobs at EU level).
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