Meanwhile, 11 EU countries under the leadership of Austria met in Brussels on Wednesday to form an alliance for a possible joint court case – arguing that the toll discriminates against foreigners.
Berlin agreed to tweak plans for the road toll scheme to make it compliant with EU rules. A variety of short-term vignettes will be available for foreigners and the toll will be cheaper for environmentally friendly cars.
Germany has imposed a toll on trucks using its roads since 2005, but it is currently one of the few European countries to allow car drivers to use its highways at no extra charge.
However, the costs of maintaining Germany’s extensive autobahn network have increased pressure to charge drivers. Germans pay for the upkeep of the autobahns through their taxes, and there has been growing resentment that foreigners can use the roads for free.
Austrian Transport Minister Jörg Leichtfried (SPÖ) said that the road toll scheme is “a pure tax on foreigners” and that although Austria would consider suing Germany alone, a joint court case is preferable as “it’s about European principles”.
He was also critical of the EU Commission, which was originally opposed to introducing an autobahn toll. “A principle has been violated. The rule of law, which has so far been applied in the EU, will be replaced by the law of the strongest,” he added.
Leichtfried was an MEP for 12 years, before taking over as transport minister in May 2016.