February 26. 2024. 4:30

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EU combustion engine ban electrifies Austrian coalition

Chancellor Karl Nehammer announcing Austria will oppose the EU’s de facto combustion engine ban has sparked criticism from his Green coalition partner.

On Friday, Nehammer said he would “speak out against the ban” if the topic is discussed at the upcoming European Council – a position that goes against Austria’s initially supportive stance.

Nehammer’s change of heart also led to a fierce response from his coalition partner.

Austria will still adhere to switching to electric cars from 2035 after agreeing “with a majority of EU states”, a spokesperson of the Green Climate Minister Leonore Gewessler told EURACTIV.

“We see no reason to change this position – because we are a reliable partner and adhere to the common rules for decision-making at the EU level,” the spokesperson added.

While Gewessler emphasised that the future belongs to e-mobility, the chancellor himself made clear that he does not share this vision of the future.

“What type of future vision is that, where you put the internal combustion engine to the side and then just focus on a propulsion mechanism?” he asked on Friday.

The planned phase-out of combustion engines has already sparked much controversy in recent weeks and has been put on hold due to last-minute opposition by Germany. Transport Minister Volker Wissing demanded a special exception for e-fuels, which should be used even after 2035 as an alternative to e-vehicles.

Germany joined ranks with seven other countries who similarly oppose the bill in its current form.

On Monday, the EU transport ministers of combustion engine-friendly countries met in Prague to discuss potential changes to weaken the proposal of the European Commission on the phase-out. Austria was not among the eight countries that attended the meeting.

(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)