By Gilbert Reilhac
The European Parliament voted on Thursday to set up a committee to investigate Volkswagen’s emissions scandal and whether regulators failed to prevent cheating by the car industry in vehicle pollution tests.
The European Commission, the EU executive whose actions will come under scrutiny as part of the investigation, said it would work with the committee of lawmakers.
Given the green light by party bloc leaders on Wednesday, the full 751-seat Parliament backed a draft mandate for the inquiry by 354 votes to 229.
Volkswagen’s admission in September that it rigged U.S. tests for health-damaging nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel cars and that up to 11 million vehicles – mostly in Europe – could be fitted with illegal “defeat devices” capable of cheating tests has sparked a public outcry.
The scandal has shone a light on loopholes in European regulations that allow carmakers to get round official emissions limits as well as the influence of automakers – major employers in countries such as in Germany and France.
“This inquiry must focus on the roles played by the responsible national authorities and the European Commission in allowing this regulatory breakdown to occur,” Green deputy Bas Eickhout said.
The parliamentary inquiry could last for up to a year and will look into alleged contraventions of European Union law and “maladministration” in its application.
Some 45 members of the Parliament will sit on the committee and preside over public hearings by government, EU and industry representatives.
“Defeat devices are banned in EU law,” Commission spokeswoman Lucia Caudet said. “The policing in the area is the responsibility of the appropriate national enforcement authorities.”