October 20, 2020

Paris and Berlin agree to reform EU competition rules after the veto of the Alstom-Siemens merger | Economy

Paris and Berlin agree to reform EU competition rules after the veto of the Alstom-Siemens merger | Economy

Following the European Commission's veto over the merger of railway technology manufacturers Siemens and Alstom, Germany and France have launched an offensive to jointly push for a reform of European competition legislation that will create European "new champions". Among other proposals, the two countries advocate "updating" the guidelines that guide the Competition Policy of the European Commission or give the Council the possibility of annulling a decision of the EU executive under "strict conditions", according to the document signed in Berlin by the Federal Minister of Economy Peter Altmaier (CDU) and his French colleague Bruno Le Maire.

"This is an important day because after months of work, we have agreed on the definition of an industrial strategy for Europe that we will propose to our partners," French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said at a press conference in Berlin with his counterpart Peter Altmaier. "This is the first time in years, even decades, that we have launched such an important initiative and that France and Germany have agreed on a common industrial strategy for the 21st century," he added.

Electric batteries

The community partners have chosen the production of electric batteries as their first concrete cooperation project, which will be open to other European countries. Germany has made available 1,000 million euros and France 700 million euros, said Peter Altmaier. Berlin and Paris await a response from the European Commission on this issue before April 1.

The two ministers called for a European industrial strategy to "make European companies ready for the future in the face of tough global competition." At Manifesto for industrial policy They list three main pillars. First, focus on innovation and find the necessary funding, and then modify the European standards described as "obsolete, as demonstrated by the failure of the Siemens and Alstom merger," said Bruno Le Maire.

The last point of the manifesto is to protect European industries to avoid technology transfer to Asia. And for this they propose the "full implementation" of the instrument that will allow the European Commission to control foreign investment in infrastructure and key sectors that may affect security and public order.

"We need a European industrial strategy so that our industry is prepared for the future in the face of tough global competition, which will be an important task for the Commission after the European elections," the German minister added when referring to the manifesto. "After microelectronics, now we also want to support and launch a European consortium for the production of battery cells, we need a battery production that is competitive, innovative and respectful of the environment in Germany and Europe. battery will represent a large part of the added value of the automotive industry, and it is absolutely necessary that we participate in it. "

Location of the factories

Regarding the production of electrical materials, Altmaier said he had discussed the subject intensively with his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire. "We must join forces, the production of batteries is a first case of application of a more integrated industrial policy in Europe," said the German minister. Altmaier added that the decision on where the factories will be located will be taken shortly.

The decision to reform the EU competition rules devised by Paris and Berlin is due to the need to make European companies global players large enough to compete with suppliers from the United States or Asia. At the beginning of February, the Commission banned the creation of a Franco-German railway technology group. The manufacturer of ICE Siemens wanted to merge its transport division with the French manufacturer of TGV Alstom. One of the objectives was to be able to face the CRRC, world leader of the Chinese market. However, the EU Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, concluded that the merger would jeopardize competition in the European single market.

During the joint press conference, the two ministers also mentioned the risks to which the European industry is facing because of the plans of President Donald Trumnp of impunity tariffs on the importation of European cars. "This should be avoided," said Altmaier, adding: "This does not mean that we should not be prepared to defend our interests if we are unfairly pressured."

Le Maire said, meanwhile, that international trade must follow the rules that apply to everyone. "We will not negotiate on the basis of threats, the EU must act jointly in the commercial dispute, in a commercial war there will only be losers," said the French minister.


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