Government proposes repealing the Acts on lightweight cars
The Government proposes that the Acts on lightweight cars be repealed, because, despite the active efforts of the Finnish authorities, the European Commission has not granted Finland a derogation for the introduction of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. According to the Commission, the Acts adopted in 2018 in Finland are not in line with the EU Driving Licence Directive.
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. In 2019, Parliament postponed the entry into force of the Acts on lightweight cars by one year.
If the Acts are not repealed, they will enter into force at the beginning of November 2020. If the Acts are not repealed, it is possible that the Commission initiates infringement proceedings against Finland, because, from the Commission’s point of view, the legislation on lightweight cars is in breach of EU law. The infringement procedure could, through possible court proceedings, result in significant financial consequences for Finland and repeal of the Acts at a later stage.
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. He 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. That is why lower-level regulation related to lightweight cars has not been adopted. That is another reason why failure to repeal the acts without other measures is not a viable option.
Finland’s influencing work for the safe mobility of young drivers will continue
Following the adoption of the Act on lightweight cars, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, as required by Parliament, has held intensive consultations with the Commission in order to resolve the situation and find a way to introduce lightweight cars in Finland. In addition to the non-compliance with the Driving Licence Directive, the Commission drew attention to the safety and environmental problems as well as to the market impacts of lightweight cars.
According to the Commission’s proposal in the negotiations, Finland searched for a solution in applying 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 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. 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.
The Ministry’s active interaction with the Commission and efforts to influence it will continue during the possible reform of the Driving Licences Directive. 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.
In order to reform the Directive, Finland is well placed to offer the Commission concrete proposals and solutions on how to promote the safety of young drivers.
Once the Commission has submitted its legislative proposal, the EU legislative procedure will take an average of 1–2 years. In addition, the time required for national implementation must be taken into account.
What are the next steps?
On 17 September 2020, the Government submitted a legislative proposal to Parliament on repealing the Acts on lightweight cars.
A referral debate on the government proposal now submitted to Parliament will be conducted in a Parliament plenary session. Information on the date of the session will be available on the Parliament website (plenary session agendas).
After the preliminary debate, the proposal will be taken to a Parliamentary Committee. After the Committee submits a report, the process will continue in a plenary session.
Sini Wirén, Director of Unit, tel. +358 40 507 0916, Twitter: @WirenSini
Mari Starck, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 50 478 1164