In the car toll affair, three important witnesses contradict the statements of the Transport Minister in the Bundestag. His former secretary of state takes him under protection. He himself says he doesn’t remember.
Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) has dismissed central allegations in clarifying the burst car toll. Scheuer said on Friday evening as a witness in the committee of inquiry that he recalled during a meeting in November 2018 with managers of the later planned operating companies that there was no offer to postpone signing the contract until the ECJ ruling. There was no reason to talk about delaying a signature date, and it was not even foreseeable whether an agreement could be reached at all. His statement was supported by the former Secretary of State Gerhard Schulz.
Schuleberg: There was an offer
Previously three representatives of the toll operating companies had indicated that the offer had been made to Scheuer. However, he turned down the proposal. The operators pointed out to Scheuer the “risks of a negative judgment” of the Court of Justice. However, Scheuer made it clear that the ministry had several reports stating that the toll was “unanimous and crystal clear” as being in line with European law.
Scheuer said the start of the car toll “would be completely unacceptable in the 2021 election year.” The minister had previously demanded that the toll start in 2020. “He firmly refused to wait for the ECJ to sign the contract,” said CTS Eventim boss Klaus-Peter Schulenberg.
The CEO of the Austrian operating company Kapsch TrafficCom, Georg Kapsch, confirmed these descriptions. The meeting with Scheuer in November 2018 was mainly about the high price for the operator’s toll offer. Schuleberg had made Scheuer “the offer, if we need time, then we can actually wait for the ruling of the ECJ. The minister refused.”
Schuleberg: Scheuer refused
The director of Autoticket, Volker Schneble, had already said to the committee of inquiry this morning that such an offer had been made. Schneble had last written this down in a memory log that became known last week. However, he himself was not present at the relevant meeting with the minister, but says he heard about it from Schulenberg, among others, in 2018. The testimony before the commission of inquiry now has a different quality: because witnesses have to tell the truth there, otherwise they will be punishable.
Scheuer had said in the Bundestag last year that there had been no offer for the operators to sign the contracts at a later date. The opposition therefore accuses him of lying to parliament – and demands his resignation. The chair of the commission of inquiry, Udo Schiefner (SPD), had told Chillreport before the commission meeting about the charge of lying to Scheuer: “If he cannot rebut the charge, it will put a heavy burden on his desk.”
In addition to Schulenberg and Scheuer, company boss Georg Kapsch and the then State Secretary for Transport Gerhard Schulz also took part in the relevant meeting in November 2018. Schulz and Scheuer should also be heard in the investigation committee on Thursday. The minister’s questioning is scheduled last and can last well into the night.
At the end of 2018, together with the Austrian Kapsch, CTS Event was commissioned to collect and monitor the car toll. The ECJ had quashed the German car toll in June 2019 because it discriminates against foreign drivers. However, the contracts with the operating companies for the CSU prestige project had already been signed at the end of 2018.