Germans on collision course withEU over driver's licence limit

13th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

13 October 2004, BERLIN - The German government is barrelling toward a head-on collision with the European Union over proposed new EU regulations that would do away with a time-honoured tradition in Germany - perpetual driving licences that never expire. Getting a driving licence in Germany is not easy, requiring expensive formal instruction costing more than EUR 1,000 and passing stringent written tests and a gruelling driving test. But once you get your German licence, it's yours for life. In fact, a Ger

13 October 2004

BERLIN - The German government is barrelling toward a head-on collision with the European Union over proposed new EU regulations that would do away with a time-honoured tradition in Germany - perpetual driving licences that never expire.

Getting a driving licence in Germany is not easy, requiring expensive formal instruction costing more than EUR 1,000 and passing stringent written tests and a gruelling driving test.

But once you get your German licence, it's yours for life. 

In fact, a German can live abroad for decades and return to Germany and still be entitled to step into a car and drive off from the airport with a driving licence issued in the days before the Berlin Wall went up in the 1960s.

But all that will come to a screeching halt if EU bureaucrats have their way. The EU wants to implement standard licence issuance rules and that includes a requirement that each and every driver's licence has to be renewed every 10 years.

While that is lenient by the standards of most places, many of which require renewal ever four or five years, it is unfathomable to Germans.

"The German government will do everything in its power to prevent such a regulation from coming into being," says Felix Stenschke, a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Transport.

"It would result in an onerous burden for Germany," adds Stenschke. "Why, it would mean that some 32 million licences would be up for renewal every year.

"That would result in a tremendous amount of expense and bureaucratic red tape. Think of all the photos that would have to be taken. Think of all the forms that would have to be filled out. Think of all the millions of drivers who would be required to queue up to renew their licences," he says.

The fact that such inconveniences are faced by millions in every other country is something that Germans conveniently ignore when it comes to their cherished lifelong driving licences.

"I admit we face an uphill battle," concedes Stenschke, noting that Germany is the only EU member nation that fails to require its motorists to renew their licences - ever.

Foreign tourists, of course, are permitted to drive on Germany's roads and autobahns, assuming they possess legitimate licences from their native countries. And new residents can also use their foreign licences - but just for a limited time.

In most cases that means anyone who holds a valid foreign driver's licence is entitled to operate a vehicle in Germany temporarily - regardless of age.

"Temporarily" means a maximum of six months. The six-month grace period begins when "ordinary residency" has been established in Germany.

During this period, the driver must carry a German translation with the actual licence. The translation is issued for a fee by the the German Automobile Association (ADAC) and other institutions.

To be able to continue operating a vehicle in Germany, the driver must convert his/her foreign licence into a German licence within six months of establishing "ordinary residency" there.

It is possible to extend the grace period one time by another six months if the licence holder can credibly show that he/she will not reside in Germany longer than 12 months.

After the six-month grace period has expired, it is still possible to convert a foreign driver's licence into a German licence within a maximum of three years after establishing "ordinary residency".

However, the licence holder is not allowed to drive during the application process and as long as the conversion to a German licence has not occurred.

After the three-year grace period has expired, it is no longer possible to convert the foreign driving licence into a German licence. Thus, to obtain a German licence, the driver must complete a full driver-training program and then pass a theoretical (written) and practical (road) test.

But once you get your mitts on a German driving licence, it is yours for life - or at least until EU bureaucrats change the rules.

DPA

Subject: German news

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