Germany is renowned the world over for quality and an almost obsessive attention to detail, but recent events in the country have raised eyebrows and led to the intervention of both the EU and the IMF in Germany’s infrastructure policy.
The story dates back to the recession of the late noughties and, despite Germany not being hit as badly as its neighbours in Europe, it was forced to take its share of the collective pain through massive contributions to bailout funds. In turn, this reduced the funding available for infrastructure leading to the country’s once famed autobahns falling into a state of disrepair.
Germany is one of the few countries in Europe which doesn’t charge for using its autobahns being surrounded by France, Austria and Switzerland which do. Eyeing the potential to raise funds to renovate the motorway network, the German government decided to introduce an annual toll based on engine size and emissions meaning an average annual charge of €88 per vehicle. This has caused uproar, not in Germany where you might expect opposition, but in its neighbours. Confusing as this might sound, German drivers have been promised a corresponding reduction in road tax nullifying the cost of the move but at the same time penalising foreign motorists who enter Germany by road.
Incensed at this ‘tourist tax’ Switzerland and Austria have successfully lobbied the EU to put the brakes on the move, angering Germany which has said that the EU has no right to interfere in German transport policy. The tax is likely to raise only half a billion euros a year in revenue, negligible when compared to the annual investment recommended by the IMF who have also criticised the country for the meagre amounts it has spent on infrastructure over the last decade.
For now we have a stalemate whilst the EU ponders Germany’s response. The good news for motorists visiting
Germany is that the toll charges, due to be implemented next year, have been postponed indefinitely. The EU calls the toll a tax on nationality whilst short term vignettes are criticised for being disproportionately expensive.
Until the situation is resolved, it seems that everyone with the exception of the German government and the crumbling motorway system, will benefit.