* EU lawmakers back overhaul of new vehicle licensing
* Reforms seek to avoid repeat of VW scandal
* EU says governments protecting carmakers
(Updates with results of EU lawmakers vote)
By Alissa de Carbonnel
BRUSSELS, Feb 9 The European Union plans more
legal action soon against governments that have failed to police
emissions test cheating by carmakers in the wake of the
Volkswagen diesel scandal, a top official said on
In a bid to prevent a rerun of the VW scandal, the European
Commission has proposed an overhaul of rules on how vehicles are
licensed and tested across the bloc. A draft bill, which would
bolster EU oversight, won the backing of the European
Parliament's internal market committee in a vote on Thursday.
But it still faces a tough battle to be approved by member
states, with EU industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska
accusing governments of obstructing the bloc's efforts to rein
in what it sees as wayward behaviour by the car industry.
"Member states really failed to enforce the law," Bienkowska
told the EU lawmakers. "I feel they are still playing for time."
Amid mounting frustration over what Brussels sees as
governments colluding with carmakers, it began legal cases
against Germany, Britain and five other EU members in December.
Bienkowska said there were a lot more cases to come in the
coming months. "But these are very limited tools," she added.
"We need a new type approval system."
FIXING THE SYSTEM
The draft law, which will tackle conflicts of interest when
national regulators inspect and certify cars made by their own
domestic manufacturers, will now go to a plenary vote next
But some countries have balked at the reforms.
"There are elements of this that are going to be very
tough," Conservative lawmaker Daniel Dalton, who is steering the
bill through Parliament, told Reuters. "But member states can't
act in isolation."
After VW admitted to using software to mask the levels of
health-harming emissions from some of its diesel cars, several
European countries ran their own investigations.
They revealed on-road nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions as high
as 15 times the regulatory limits, as well as the use of defeat
devices to reduce exhaust treatment.
The use of such devices is illegal under EU law, but car
manufacturers have invoked an EU legal loophole that allows them
to use software to scale back emissions controls when necessary
to protect car engines. All deny breaking the law.
Seeking to close this loophole, the Commission issued
guidance last month on how members of the 28-nation bloc should
apply the rules.
Under the reforms, Brussels would get powers to carry out
vehicle spot-checks and levy fines, while national authorities
would be able to peer-review each other's decisions.
Currently, vehicles can only be recalled by the country that
licensed them, although they can be sold across the bloc.
The bill also seeks to break cosy relations between
carmakers and the firms they hire to test new vehicles by
introducing a non-direct payment mechanism.
Lawmakers also call for on-road checks on a minimum of 20
percent of car models per year across Europe.
(Additional reporting by Waverly Colville; Editing by Ed Osmond
and Susan Fenton)