December 8, 2016 / 11:04 AM / 10 months ago

EU launches legal case against Germany, UK over VW scandal

BRUSSELS, Dec 8 (Reuters) - The European Union opened legal action on Thursday against seven nations including Germany and Britain for failing to police emissions cheating by carmakers after the Volkswagen scandal.

Germany, Britain, Spain and Luxembourg stand accused of not imposing the same kind of penalties VW faced in the United States over its use of illegal software to mask emissions of health-harming nitrogen oxide (NOx) on tests.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, has further called Germany and Britain to account for refusing to share details on breaches of EU emissions laws uncovered in national investigations this year.

Germany, the Union’s leading power and by far its biggest carmaker, complains that current EU laws are poorly framed.

“National authorities across the EU must ensure that car manufacturers actually comply with the law,” European Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said in a statement.

Another three countries - the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Greece - have been spotlighted for not even including within national legislation the possibility of fining Europe’s biggest industry over potential violations.

Thursday’s notice is the first step in what is known as infringement procedures, allowing the EU to ensure the bloc’s 28 nations abide by agreed EU-wide regulations. Member states have two months to respond.

If they fail to respond to Brussels’ concerns, the EU may take them to the EU court in Luxembourg. National watchdogs approve new cars and alone have the power to police them - although they are sold across the bloc.

The European Union institutions have been the target of a nationalist backlash across the bloc, highlighted by Britain’s vote in June to leave, and are battling to show voters that the EU has a value and can deliver solutions to their concerns.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has accused national governments of pandering to eurosceptics by using the EU as a scapegoat. EU officials say the executive is keen to show voters that it is national governments, fearful for jobs in the car industry, which have failed to enforce EU standards. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

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