Merkel: Charge foreigners to drive on the autobahn

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BERLIN — For the privilege of driving on Germany's speedy autobahn, Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to charge everyone, except Germans.

After weeks of negotiations, Merkel's conservative bloc and the Social Democrats agreed to levy a toll for using the country's highways as part of a deal to form a governing coalition. While details remain vague before they take power, which will be after Social Democrat party members vote on the agreement by Thursday, the one clear stipulation is that the tax shouldn't result in additional costs for Germans.

Drivers from neighboring countries say Germany is undermining Europe's open borders. Even locals question the point of a targeted toll, which would raise about 260 million euros ($352 million), according to an estimate from German car club ADAC, because it would do little to cover costs to upgrade aging infrastructure.

"We have made Europe into a place with the free flow of traffic and now we really threaten this," said Mike Pinckaers, a spokesman for Dutch drivers' association ANWB.

European countries such as Italy and France require drivers to pay fees at highway toll booths, while car owners in Switzerland and Austria buy an annual pass for freeways. The German system, while not yet decided, could grant the country's drivers an autobahn sticker as part of their annual vehicle tax payment, requiring foreigners to purchase one separately.