null Comments invited on the repeal of the Acts on lightweight cars

Comments invited on the repeal of the Acts on lightweight cars

Press release 25.08.2020 17.55 fi sv en

lightweight cars. The Acts must be repealed, because, despite the active efforts of the Finnish authorities, the European Commission has not granted Finland a derogation for the introduction of lightweight cars.

Already at an earlier stage, in summer 2019, the Commission considered that the Acts adopted in Finland in 2018 are in breach of the EU Driving Licence Directive. The Commission also drew attention to the safety and environmental problems and market effects presented in the complaints sent to the Commission. For this reason, Parliament had already decided to postpone the entry into force of the Acts by one year.

The Acts were scheduled to enter into force in the beginning of November 2020 and they must be repealed before that to ensure that Finnish legislation will not violate EU law. If the Acts are not repealed, the Commission is likely to initiate infringement proceedings against Finland. The infringement procedure may, through possible court proceedings, result in significant financial consequences for Finland.

In his statement of 4 September 2019, the Chancellor of Justice considered that compared to the original Government proposal the Commission’s interpretation was stricter and stressed that the adoption of government decrees implementing Acts that are, according to the Commission’s review, in breach of EU law cannot be recommended from a legal point of view. Failure to repeal the acts without other measures is not a viable option.

Commission: Driving Licence Directive must be applied to lightweight cars

In the 2018 Act, a special vehicle category was set up for lightweight cars. They were to be categorised as passenger cars converted into T category vehicles with a speed limited to 60 km/h. A driver of a lightweight car would have to be over 15 years old and hold a driving licence of category AM.

It is the Commission’s view that the definition of an agricultural or a forestry tractor cannot be applied to lightweight vehicles. Instead, the applicable definition would be the one of a motor vehicle. In this case, they fall within the scope of the Driving Licence Directive, and national requirements of an AM category licence and a minimum age limit of 15 years cannot be issued.

Negotiations not successful

Immediately after the Acts on lightweight cars had been adopted in 2018, the Ministry of Transport and Communications started negotiations with the Commission. Following the decision in autumn 2019 to postpone the entry into force of the Acts, the negotiations were further intensified as required by Parliament.

The negotiations have been active at both political and public official level. In accordance with the option presented by the Commission in spring 2020, the intention was to find a way to allow the introduction of lightweight cars in Finland by proposing legislative elements to improve road safety and that way help obtain an exemption.

In the negotiations with Finland, the Commission proposed that Finland apply for a derogation from the scope of the Driving Licence Directive so that provisions on the right to drive lightweight cars could be laid down nationally. In the negotiations, Finland has presented concrete proposals for amendments to the Acts on lightweight cars in order to respond to the critical remarks made by the Commission and the complainants.

As a rule, the discussions with the Commission focused on a model in which the same teaching and qualification requirements would be laid down nationally for the restricted driving licence required for the carriage of lightweight cars as have been laid down for the driving licence of category B required for the carriage of ordinary passenger cars. In addition, once the age requirements are met, drivers could in practice, with small additional training and without any significant additional costs, change their restricted driving licence to a valid B driving licence.

The Commission considered Finland’s proposals to be good in principle, but as the negotiations progressed it did not allow to deviate from the provisions of the Driving Licences Directive.

Long-term solutions will be discussed in connection with the reform of the EU Directive

The only legal way to make a means of transport such as a lightweight car available to young people is to influence the content of the future Driving Licence Directive. The Commission intends to reform the Directive in the next few years. The Commission is to open a public consultation on the Driving Licence Directive in autumn 2020. A legislative proposal will possibly be submitted in early 2021.

Finland is well placed to offer the Commission concrete proposals and solutions on how to reform the Directive in order to ensure the safety of young drivers. Once the Commission has submitted its legislative proposal, the EU legislative procedure itself will take an average of 1–2 years. In addition, the time required for national implementation must be taken into account.

Proactive communication with the Commission to influence future EU regulation has already begun and will continue during the process of reforming the Driving Licence Directive.

What are the next steps?

The deadline for comments is 31 August 2020. Organisations and private individuals are invited to comment online at www.lausuntopalvelu.fi or by email to kirjaamo@lvm.fi.

Following the consultation round, the preparations of the matter will continue by Ministry officials.

Inquiries

Sini Wirén, Director of Unit, tel. +358 40 507 0,916

Mari Starck, Senior Specialist, tel. + 358 50 478 1164