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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 February 2007, 19:38 GMT
Commissioner risks row over car
Stavros Dimas
Stavros Dimas is due for a new chauffeur-driven car in April
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas is risking offending European carmakers by apparently asking for a Japanese rather than a European car.

It is rumoured that the heretical Mr Dimas wants a green Toyota Prius to replace the gas-guzzling Mercedes he inherited from his predecessor.

The Greek commissioner is currently battling to impose tough CO2 emission limits on new cars sold in Europe.

A spokeswoman said he had asked for a car that was the greenest in its class.

Officials say there is no rule that says a European commissioner may not have a Japanese or other non-European car - but commission sources say they are rarely seen in the car park.

Four options

Mr Dimas' embrace of the Prius could be taken as an insult by the European car industry, which is already feeling battered by his proposal to cap CO2 emissions from new cars at 120g per kilometre by 2012.

Toyota Prius
The Prius emits less than half as much CO2 as the VW Touareg

The latest signs are that the industry may be winning the war, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel announcing this week that she would "never agree" to rules that penalised makers of big cars.

EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen has been driving a hard bargain within the commission itself.

According to one report, Mr Dimas asked Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso last August if he could have a Toyota Prius hybrid car when his existing car is replaced this April.

Mr Barroso has been keen to commit the EU to ambitious environmental targets, such as a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, but has come under attack for driving an Volkswagen Touareg 4X4, which emits at least 265g of CO2 per kilometre.

The pressure group Transport and Environment provided BBC News with four recommendations for Mr Dimas, including two made in Europe:

  • Toyota Prius Hybrid Petrol - 104g/km
  • Honda Civic Hybrid Petrol - 109g/km
  • Citroen C4 Diesel 1.6 - 125g/km
  • Volvo S40 Diesel 1.6 - 129g/km

Each of these would be suitable for the commissioner, they said, assuming he was being driven around, and "wanted to read the latest IPCC report on climate change" in the back seat.

Public transport

But British Green MEP Caroline Lucas questioned whether Mr Dimas needed a car at all.

"It's perfectly possible to travel around Brussels by bicycle, or on its excellent public transport system. Millions do, after all," she said.

Journalists at the European Commission press briefing on Thursday asked whether, following Mr Dimas' example, the agriculture commissioner would start eating organic food, and the fisheries commissioner would eat only the least endangered species of fish.

Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger replied that while everybody at the commission tried to set a good example, the EU was not about prescribing to citizens "one single standard".

"It's up to each individual to decide whether to eat an apple or a pear, or steak or cod," he said.

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