The European Commission will unveil tomorrow an ambitious proposal to more closely regulate Europe's auto sector, the EU's top industry official said, in an effort to repolish the bloc's image that was tarnished by the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
The Commission, the EU's regulatory arm, will propose to take greater authority on deciding which car models are approved to drive on European roads, a responsiblity for now handled by national regulators.
"We need a stronger supervision in Europe in which the Commission has the power to carry out checks, and order recalls if needed," said EU Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska in a editorial published today in Belgian daily l'Echo.
The EU has been particularly embarrased in the VW scandal, in which Europe's biggest car maker was found to have fitted 11 million diesel engines worldwide with devices aimed at cheating emissions tests.
Critics accuse the Commission of turning a blind eye to years of clear evidence that Volkswagen was using software to cheat on emissions tests, with Brussels afraid to take on Germany's powerful auto industry.
"The Dieselgate scandal was not only embarrassing because VW had been caught cheating; it also highlighted in a very public way the failure to enforce European legislation," said Cecile Toubeau of anti-pollution lobby Transport and Environment.
The Commission has said it has had no power to weigh in on the evidence and has pointed the finger to national regulators that in most cases -- most notably in Germany -- rely on tests executed by experts from the car companies themselves.
The proposal tomorrow is geared towards "guaranteeing that car tests are more independent by checking who is paying for the service and to whom the service is tasked," said the EU's Bienkowska.
Tomorrow's proposal will take at least months and possibly years of negotiations among EU lawmakers and national governments.
Germany's Volkswagen admitted in September having installed software on diesel vehicles worldwide that allows them to cheat pollution tests, sparking a scandal that could cost it tens of billions of dollars.