Brussels, Berlin Spar over Auto Emissions

The German auto industry has protested the EU's call for emissions reductions, but the EU says the country's not being singled out

The European Commission has hit back at German criticism of its plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars saying they represent an opportunity for the country's car industry.

EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the plans were not a "punishment" but "a chance for the German industry."

"They help climate protection while leading to more competitiveness for German cars on international markets," said Mr Dimas, who faced a hard fight within the commission itself to get the plans approved and made public on 19 December.

Under the plans, from 2012, the average carbon dioxide emissions of new cars must be reduced to 130 grammes per kilometre. The targets are to be set according to the weight of cars.

The commission has also proposed fining car-makers who do not toe the line. By 2015, manufacturers will have to pay €95 per gramme over the limit.

The German car industry, home to high-end luxury cars, has strongly protested the plans, saying it is being unfairly penalised.

Protest has come from the highest levels in Berlin. German chancellor Angela Merkel said she thought the plans represented "industrial policy at the expense of German auto producers."

Within the commission, German commissioner Guenter Verheugen, in charge of industry, also registered protest by not turning up to a press conference to announce the proposals with Mr Dimas and by refusing to give his nod of approval to the plans when they were discussed by all 27 commissioners.

However, Mr Dimas - whose plans have been critised by green groups for not going far enough - has been supported by Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission.

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