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German government takes aim at foreign drivers with new car toll

Vehicles drive along the A9 highway in the north of Munich, southern Germany, July 7, 2014. German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt on Monday announced plans on a road toll involving foreign drivers using the German road network.

MICHAELA REHLE/REUTERS

Germany plans to introduce a car toll that seeks to make money off the millions of foreigners who drive through the country every year, the transport minister said Monday.

Germany has a truck toll but, unlike many European countries, no car toll. Alexander Dobrindt said it wasn't fair that foreign drivers do not contribute to maintaining the roads, and that "fairness gap" should be closed.

Dobrindt plans to introduce toll stickers in 2016 for all cars using any roads in Germany, not just highways. Foreign drivers will be able to get one-year, two-month or 10-day stickers online or at filling stations. The cheapest option, the 10-day sticker, will cost 10 euros ($13.60 U.S.).

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Annual fees will vary according to cars' engine size and environmental credentials and will average 88 euros, while a separate car tax will be reduced so that German drivers won't pay more overall. Dobrindt put the expected proceeds over four years at about €2.5-billion ($3.4-billion).

Dobrindt's Bavaria-based conservative party, the smallest of three in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, has insisted on introducing a car toll for foreigners despite the long-standing misgivings of its coalition partners. Merkel vowed before last year's German election that "there will be no car toll with me," but later agreed to the plan.

Many worry that the system won't be compatible with European Union law because only foreign car owners will pay more. After spending months putting together the elaborate plan, Dobrindt said he's confident that won't be a problem.

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