Article About Berlin< GERMANY
Chancellor Angela Merkel ’s government this past week unveiled plans to charge tolls for passenger cars on Germany’s autobahn, as many other European highways already do. The wrinkle: only drivers of foreign-registered cars would end up paying to zoom down its open roads.
The plan would require all drivers to pay a toll of no more than 163 a year, beginning in 2016. German-registered car owners, though, could deduct the toll from the vehicle taxes they pay.
For too long, some Germans argue, other Europeans have been getting a free ride on the autobahn, and in more ways than one. While most of Germany’s neighbors have some form of road-toll system for cars, Germany doesn’t.
The resentment over having to pay tolls on other European roads but getting no revenue in return is particularly high in Bavaria, which borders toll-charging Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. The toll plan fulfills a campaign pledge to the wealthy and conservative state, which is a critical base of support for Ms. Merkel.
“With this toll, we are ensuring greater fairness,” Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, a Bavarian and the architect of the law, said in an interview published Friday in the German tabloid Bild.
Mr. Dobrindt, a member of Ms. Merkel’s conservative Bavarian sister party, vowed during the national-election campaign last year to stop “discrimination against German drivers.” The promise of the toll was enshrined in the agreement cementing the governing coalition last year between Ms. Merkel’s conservative bloc and the left-of-center Social Democrats.
The plan is the latest example of how Ms. Merkel has cultivated a broad base of support with initiatives appealing to both the left and right. While a highway toll is especially appealing to Bavarians, a new national minimum wage and lower retirement age have drawn supporters from Germany’s political left.
The plan isn’t free of hurdles.
Opposition politicians have criticized the proposed law for being far more troublesome to implement than the estimated 600 million in annual income would be worth.
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