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Brussels, 14 May 2012

Guidelines for non-discriminatory vignette systems for cars – key questions and answers

The European Commission adopted a Communication on road infrastructure charges levied on light passenger vehicles. The Communication provides general guidance for a vignette system to be non-discriminatory and proportionate. Vignette systems are part of the broader strategy on road charging outlined in the 2011 White Paper on transport.

What are the White Paper strategy goals?

The general objective of the European Union's Transport Policy presented in the White Paper on Transport is "to help establish a system that underpins European economic progress, enhances competitiveness and offers high-quality mobility services while using resources more efficiently". A modern road pricing system contributes to the achievement of the White Paper goals by:

  • Contributing to fair competition between modes of transport.

  • Preventing any direct or indirect discrimination among users depending on their nationality or place of residence.

  • Promoting the principles of sustainable development by applying harmonised, transparent mechanisms for charging external costs like emissions, noise, congestion, accidents, etc.

  • Contributing to finance high quality infrastructure.

What are the current rules on road charges for light vehicles?

While there is EU legislation concerning road charges for heavy goods vehicles EU Council Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain road vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorized dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorized weights in international traffic, the only EU rules concerning the charging of light passenger vehicles - i.e. passenger cars, motorcycles and other motor vehicles below 3.5 tonnes used predominantly for private purpose - are stemming directly from the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which forbids any direct or indirect discrimination of EU citizens on grounds of nationality.

Vignettes, as a time-based form of charges levied on road users (e.g. per day, per week, per year), are currently applied to passenger vehicles in seven EU Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania. Other Member States (e.g. Belgium) are planning to implement such systems.

Why a Communication on charges for light vehicles?

In order to assist those Member States wishing to introduce a new vignette system for light passenger vehicles, based on the previously gained experiences and paying special attention to potential discrimination of occasional users, mainly coming from other Member States, the Communication outlines key criteria to see whether a vignette system complies with the general principles of non-discrimination and proportionality of the Treaty.

What is the Commission proposing?

On the basis of the received complaints and analytical studies, the Commission proposes the present guidance on the following points:

  • The availability of proportionately-priced vignettes.

  • Proper access to information.

  • The collection of fees and their payment.

  • An appropriate enforcement practice.

This guidance is not based on any ECJ case-law and constitutes the Commission's reflections on existing queries related to the application of the vignette systems.

What are the benefits?

The Communication, as a part of the broader strategy on road charging outlined in the White Paper, aims to clarify the Commission's understanding of how the general principles of non-discrimination and proportionality of the Treaty are to be applied to a vignette system for light private vehicles. It also provides guidance on the application of such vignette system.

As public spending on transport infrastructure keeps on falling, new sources of finance must be found. Road charging is an efficient and fair solution for this issue as it ensures financing for future transport investments.

The Communication does not create new legislative rules. The binding interpretation of EU law is ultimately the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

What are the next steps?

Member States are encouraged to closely co-operate with the Commission in order to converge their national vignette systems as much as possible.

Interested parties are invited to send their comments on the guidance contained in the Communication to the address:

More information:


Link to Communication:

Link to White Paper:


Helen KEARNS: 02/298 76 38

Dale KIDD: 02/295 74 61

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