On 29 October 2020, German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Markus Ferber of the Group of the European People’s Party, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“On 1 January 2020, a drastically tightened driving ban came into force on certain sections of the Inn Valley motorway in the Austrian region of Tyrol. The measure imposes very severe restrictions on the transport of certain categories of goods by road through Tyrol. Most of the previous exemptions for EURO-VI class HGVs have been withdrawn, and the sectoral driving ban has been extended to five further groups of goods.
The ban is significantly impeding the free movement of road haulage within the EU. Moreover, there have been repeated complaints that the driving ban distorts competition in Tyrol’s favour. The Court of Justice has already twice overturned the sectoral driving ban on the grounds that it poses a disproportionate obstacle to the free movement of goods within the EU.
As things stand, the Commission has yet to launch infringement proceedings against Austria.
1. Does the Commission take the view that the current sectoral driving ban is compatible with the free movement of goods within the EU?
2. What measures is the Commission planning to guarantee the free movement of goods through Tyrol?
3. Is the Commission aware of any measures that Austria has taken to prevent the sectoral driving ban from being circumvented and the exemptions from being applied unfairly in connection with traffic movements into and out of the region?”
On 8 January 2021, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, responded on behalf of the European Commission reporting:
“Regarding earlier bans introduced by Tyrol in 2003(1) and 2007(2), the Court of Justice of the European Union held that the sectoral driving ban constitutes a restriction of the free movement of goods, which may be justified on grounds of public interest (cases C-320/03 and C-28/09 respectively).
Concerning the justification of the tightening of the sectoral driving ban adopted by Austria in 2019, its objective is cleaner air. The restriction of the free movement of goods could be justified for the reasons of environmental protection and the protection of health, if it is proportionate, i.e. it must not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the underlying objective.
In this regard, one has to note that Austria has the obligation to take effective measures to improve air quality in order to comply with Directive 2008/50/EC and that, in this respect, the Commission introduced in 2016 an infringement procedure against Austria for persistent exceedances of NO2 limit values in a number of air quality zones, including Tyrol.
The Commission is continuously monitoring the impact of the tightened sectoral driving ban on the basis of information it receives from concerned stakeholders, Member States and in particular from the Austrian authorities that have been requested to send monthly data.
The Commission remains in close contact with the Austrian authorities to find a solution that safeguards the free movement of goods while pursuing the reduction of air pollution.
The Commission is not aware of any measures that Austria would have introduced to prevent the circumvention of the sectoral driving ban.”
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