“I think first, of course, the car makers have broken European law, and this has been found by several inquiry committees. But at the same time supervisory authorities were complacent and the responsible ministers were complacent and therefore the guilty is very much upon both, and this is in the end a question of democracy,” he told CNBC’s Street Signs.

“Is the state really guaranteeing the common good? Or, is it too close to the sectors and manufacturers it is supposed to control at the detriment of consumers and the environment?”

He added: “Many Germans … demand tougher action by the state for clean air, as well as more distance towards powerful lobbies, and that is something that we need all over Europe; that the state is truly making its supervisory function, and that we do not rely on the U.S. supervisory action in order to discover breaches of law in Europe.”

He said that the auto industry should ensure that all cars should produce emissions in line with EU law.

“We want simply that the cars which are on European roads correspond to European law, and this means that the emissions targets have to be fulfilled by each car,” he said.

“And on top of that, which is equally guaranteed under European law, air has to be sufficiently clean, also in inner city areas.”

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