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Environmental zones: Double trouble for border crossers

Different stickers for different countries - in the border region between France and Germany this is currently particularly annoying. From the beginning of next year, Strasbourg will introduce a permanent low emission zone in which at least the French category 4 sticker will be required. German commuters will also have to prepare themselves for this.

The environmental zones of the European countries all have the same purpose: to reduce air pollution in the cities in order to protect the health of the citizens. But the implementation of this goal is up to each country. Thus, there are stickers in some countries and registrations in others, and in addition, different regulations everywhere regarding the cars that are still allowed. Only the labelling and regulations of the country in which the low emission zone is located are accepted.

In the border region of France and Germany, this annoyance is particularly evident because of the changes at the beginning of next year. Strasbourg is introducing an environmental zone in which, from January, only vehicles with at least the French category 4 sticker will be allowed to enter. The green environmental sticker will not be accepted by the French authorities. This is despite the fact that vehicles with a green German sticker also meet at least the emission standards for the French category 4 sticker, and in some cases would even receive a significantly better sticker.

But it is not only the sticker itself that worries German commuters: while the rules for the environmental zones in Germany have been the same for years and politicians are not currently discussing any tightening of them, Strasbourg has already announced that it will gradually ban more vehicles. Initially, mainly diesel vehicles will be affected. In Paris, for example, the ban on all diesel vehicles is planned for 2024.

At the car dealers in Kehl, directly on the border with France, this is also reflected in the sales of diesel vehicles. While about 70% of the vehicles sold there used to have diesel engines, today it is less than a third. So the policy of pushing the sale of lower-emission vehicles does indeed seem to be succeeding, even if not necessarily because of positive incentives, but because of the driving bans and environmental zones.

For the border region, there could possibly be an agreement between the two countries so that the other sticker will also soon be accepted. But in general, what has been extremely frustrating for travellers and commuters in Europe for a long time is once again evident there: There is no European solution when it comes to air pollution and low emission zones. Uniform marking of vehicles and common regulations and their tightening would bring clarity for motorists when driving and buying new vehicles.

But while the ministers of the countries often preach the unity of Europe, they all do their own thing, at least with regard to the mobility turnaround.