The Federal Government has so far paid 21.5 million euros in legal costs (as of the end of June 2022) for the pending court case on the failed car toll. This has now been revealed by ZEIT ONLINE.
Legal dispute worth billions
The former Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer (CSU) had wanted to introduce the passenger car toll on German motorways against the advice of experts and failed: Now the operators are (expectedly) claiming damages. Since billions are at stake, the dispute is being fought out legally. According to an enquiry by Victor Perli, a member of the Bundestag for the Left Party, about 20 million euros have been due for lawyers’ fees and legal costs, and the federal government has had to pay another 1.5 million euros to administrative courts. Specifically, this concerns two proceedings before the appointed private arbitration court and proceedings before administrative courts because of the defence against requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.
The companies operating the toll infrastructure had demanded €560 million in damages from the federal government before the private arbitration court in question after its failure due to an ECJ ruling in 2019. The court had issued an interim award in March 2022. This clearly states that the companies are in principle entitled to damages. Now the amount must be negotiated. The federal government, in turn, is making counterclaims that could amount to reducing the claim for damages. Scheuer had claimed at the time that the companies were not entitled to any compensation. This proved to be a catastrophic misjudgement.
Failure with announcement
The case was in the media at the time, but here is a reminder: Minister Scheuer had concluded contracts with several operating companies for the introduction of a car toll during his term in office, while proceedings against it were still pending at the ECJ. The plaintiffs were neighbouring countries such as Austria, which pointed to unequal treatment of foreign motorists in Germany because the toll costs were to be waived for German motor vehicle owners through reduced motor vehicle tax. This contradicts European law and was considered by experts to be hardly enforceable from the outset. Even some of the operating companies warned, according to their own statements, against prematurely concluding contracts before the pending proceedings were over. Scheuer, however, pushed for these contracts in order to create facts. The judges at the ECJ, however, predictably overturned the German toll regulation, whereupon the transport ministry under Andreas Scheuer had to terminate the contracts. This caused damage of probably half a billion euros, which also consists of the cited court costs.
Preliminary proceedings against Scheuer
Scheuer had contradicted the operators’ account before the Bundestag’s investigative committee. Since he testified under oath, the public prosecutor’s office in Berlin has initiated preliminary proceedings against him. He is accused of making false statements under oath.