Delays Ahead

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Amid Talk of Autobahn Tax, Chancellor Merkel Applies the Brake

Dobrindt dpa 2
Transport minister Alexander Dobrindt's plans to tax car drivers have been widely criticized.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s roads are free for car users but there are competing proposals for a new tax and politicians disagree on how to move forward.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Plans for a road tax for car drivers were first suggested in July and a form of tax would have to be introduced by 2016 according to the coalition agreement of the current government.
    • The idea of the tax is controversial and supported by some Germans especially in Bavaria, as German drivers have to pay fees in Switzerland France, Italy and Austria for using the roads but drivers from abroad can use Germany’s roads free of charge.
    • In Europe, Germany is one of the few countries not to charge drivers for using its roads, along with Belgium and the Netherlands.
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    Audio

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Chancellor Angela Merkel has calmed a fractious debate emanating from Bavaria by reassuring motorists that a blanket fee on all road users is not around the corner in Germany.

Alexander Dobrindt, the country’s transport minister from the Christian Social Union, Ms. Merkel’s sister party, in July proposed taxing auto drivers in Germany and levying a fee on foreign vehicles using Germany’s autobahns.

The plan provoked a rash of  competing proposals and disagreement in a contentious debate that had raged all summer.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister and a Christian Democrat like Ms. Merkel, criticized the road tax, saying it would be too complicated to process and could cause complications at Germany’s borders.

Mr. Schäuble proposed an alternative which would mean all road users pay an extra fee.

A further suggestion was made by the BGA, the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services, to tax every kilometer driven on busy freeways.

The idea of levying a tax on roads originated in Bavaria. Mr. Dobrindt whose CSU party is based there, proposed charging drivers entering and exiting the country. The move would be popular among Bavarian voters especially those who live near to the borders who are annoyed by drivers from across the border motoring into Germany free of charge, while Bavarians behind the wheel have to reach for their wallets to hit Swiss and Austrian roads.

 

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