Daily Brief 5 September 2013

Last updated 21:00 BST.

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NEWS: German foreign road tax still alive – Turkey border hack – Austria toll hike.

Channel delays: Eurotunnel freight 30mins wait before check-in. Brittany Ferries Cherbourg-Portsmouth delayed by 20mins after assisting coastguard. Condor Clipper 70mins late Guernsey-Jersey-Portsmouth.

Weather alerts: no Red or Amber alerts so far today.

Weather: fine and warm for much of Europe.

Traffic: see @DE_Traffic from 09:00BST.

See Travel/Traffic/Weather for more.

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At the risk of repeating ourselves

Driving in European capital cities is easy, as we’ve said many times. One-way traffic, low speed limits, lots of police and/or cameras around to keep everybody in order. For those looking for a challenge however, there’s always Belgrade, capital of Serbia. Yes it’s fearsomely busy, and the one-way system is famously a recipe for gridlock rather than free flowing traffic, but the big issue is that all the street signs are in Cyrillic only. Happily modern technology like Google maps means this is no longer the problem it was. Drivers are now freer to enjoy the sights like the Palace of Serbia above, in Novi Beograd (New Belgrade) just outside the old city. The Palace is the country’s largest building, home to several government departments. Unbelievably it was designed in the mid-1940s, and finished in 1959.

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NEWS:

Germany – foreigner road tax still on the agenda.

The CSU's campaign poster for the foreigner road tax. Basically,

The CSU’s campaign poster for the foreigner road tax. Basically, if we have to pay a toll in your country you have to pay a toll to us. Maut – toll.

During a TV debate last night ahead of next week’s local election, Bavaria’s incumbent minister president Horst Seehofer again called for the tax to be introduced, even after Chancellor – and political bedfellow – Angela Merkel ruled it out in a similar TV debate on Sunday evening (see Daily Brief 4 August).

Seehofer wants to take advantage of the change in car tax arrangements next July when it switches from being paid to the regional states to the federal government. It could then be reconfigured as a road tax with foreign drivers forced to pay a portion depending on how long they used the country’s roads. The idea is reportedly approved by 88% of Bavaria’s voters.

Although Seehofer’s Christian Social Union (CSU) party is independent of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – the CSU operates only in Bavaria while the CDU operates everywhere but – the two sit in parliament together as ‘The Union’. The CSU holds three out of sixteen cabinet posts against the CDU’s eight.

Much depends on the outcome of the state and federal elections. If Seehofer manages an outright majority in Bavaria – current polls put him on 47% – it strengthens his hand within the likely ruling coalition. He has previously said the foreign car tax would be a deal breaker in any negotiations.

The CSU has form in forcing Merkel to accept policies against her better judgement, like controversial child care funding arrangements says thelocal.de.

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Turkey – a hacker group said it crashed the Turkish police information system leading to delays at the country’s borders today. All the land crossings with Bulgaria were severely disrupted between 13-17:00 this afternoon. The Turkish Redhack group claimed responsibility saying the action was in response to the ‘Gezi Park’ protests in several big cities earlier in the summer. The group has hacked other government agency websites on several previous occasions. The police however denied its system was victim to a cyberattack saying it was a planned shutdown.

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The price of the Austrian road vignette increases by 2.6% this year. This takes the price of the shortest 10-day sticker to €8.50 for vehicles below 3.5t (€4.90 for motorbikes). Two months will cost €24.80, twelve months €82.70. The new vignette – lime coloured for 2014 – goes on sale at the end of November, valid from 1 December. The annual sticker lasts until 31 January 2015. ASFINAG, the state roads company, sold nearly 24 million vignettes in 2012 for the Austrian population of 8.5 million. The majority, 17.4m, were for the ten day vignette. Only 3.8m were annual vignettes. All vehicles using Austria’s motorways and expressways must buy the sticker, apart from some roads which are charged individually via toll booths where a vignette is not necessary. For more information see www.asfinag.at (in English).

The price of the Austrian road vignette increases by 2.6% next year. This takes the price of the shortest 10-day sticker to €8.50 for vehicles below 3.5t (€4.90 for motorbikes). Two months will cost €24.80, twelve months €82.70. The new vignette – lime coloured for 2014 – goes on sale at the end of November, valid from 1 December. The annual sticker lasts until 31 January 2015. ASFINAG, the state roads company, sold nearly 24 million vignettes in 2012 for the Austrian population of 8.5 million. The majority, 17.4m, were for the ten day vignette. Only 3.8m were annual vignettes. All vehicles using Austria’s motorways and expressways must buy the sticker, apart from some roads which are charged individually via toll booths where a vignette is not necessary. For more information see www.asfinag.at (in English).

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roundup – Gibraltar. Long queues again today. At 19:00 there was a three hour wait for cars crossing into Spain. Also, the European Commission has confirmed its task force due in Gibraltar will focus only on border queues, and not tobacco smuggling, the artificial reef or land reclamation. Cyprus. First Italy, then Portugal, now Cyprus cite the Syrian Crisis for increasing fuel prices. Diesel goes up to around €1.43 and unleaded 95 to €1.41. Ukraine. In a major first for the country, the Kiev ring road project will be financed by outside investors and operated as a concession toll road. The World Bank backed International Finance Corporation (IFC) will provide initial funding. Luxembourg. New technology has allowed police to log into engine data to find out if truck tachographs have been manipulated. Out of 36 lorries inspected in a special op. today, 10 were found to have false tacho readings, a similar proportion to neighbouring Belgium and the Netherlands says wort.lu. Also, an ozone alert saw the motorway speed limit reduced from 120kph to 90kph. This has happened several times this year and is likely to happen tomorrow too.

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