Volkswagen, the German car manufacturer, has acknowledged that many millions of its cars sold worldwide have been specially equipped to trick emission tests, so as to appear less polluting. In the European Parliament, the Environment committee deals with emissions legislation. Committee chair, Italian EPP MEP Giovanni La Via, told us in an interview that the affair needs to be thoroughly investigated, rules on emissions toughened and proper oversight ensured at the EU level.
It was revealed that cars with such software have also been sold in Europe. Do we know how far this scandal will go?
It is difficult to foresee its true extent. It is clear that there were mistakes, also at the European level. Indeed we have heard that other important car manufacturers probably have systems, so we need to be told clearly, from the European institutions, to what extent others are also involved.
Do you believe that parliament's stance on emissions and their control will be affected by this?
We are the legislative body of the EU and so it is for us to fix the emission limits. We want all car producers to be applying European rules and, should they not be able to, replacing existing models. They should also increase their research into the environmental impacts (of their products). We need to see a clear reduction of pollution from cars - and soon.
How can be one ensure that rules are respected by the companies?
So far we have only national systems in each of the 28 member states. We need a European agency or body able to oversee these checks. If the Commission proposes an existing body for this purpose, it is fine with us. If they want to propose something different, we are ready to evaluate it, in order to better to ensure that consumers get the real picture on what they are about to buy.
Looking to the past, do you think Parliament should have been a bit tougher?
No, we have asked from the very beginning for changes to the system of emission controls and for a real evaluation of car emissions, in real-life conditions. We have voted many times on a new system. Our position as a Parliament is clear: We want real assessment of car emissions.
How can Europe keep its reputation for a clean environment, fighting climate change, if companies can so easily manipulate emission tests?
In view of the upcoming COP21 climate summit in Paris, we need to have clear picture and very soon, to show the world that we are serious about this. We need to agree upon and then enforce penalties. It is very important that we do so.