Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders

EU leaders were divided Friday (24 June) on proposals to protect strategic sectors in Europe by giving the European Commission more powers to screen foreign investments.

French president Emmanuel Macron, supported by Germany and Italy, proposed to have the European Commission examine ways to screen third country investments into strategic sectors in Europe, but failed to gather enough support at his first summit.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Fairer trade is preferable than the law of the jungle,” Macron said after the summit at a joint press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

The leaders decided to return to the issue at a later summit, and instead watered down the language in their summit conclusions.

They called on the Commission to “analyse" foreign investments in strategic sectors, while member states would still make the decision on those investments.

European Council chief Donald Tusk said the government and state heads engaged in a "long debate on the balance between openness and protectionism” in trade.

"Europe needs to better protect people from unfair trade practices by introducing more reciprocity,” he said, confirming that the commission will analyse investments if needed.

"We agreed that we would explore a new mechanism, whereby the Commission might screen such investments to ensure that it doesn't have those negative strategic consequences for Europe,” Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar told journalists after the summit on Friday.

But it is unclear how that new analysis mechanism would work in practice.

Trojan horse for protectionism

Sweden, the Netherlands, Malta, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Poland and others raised concerns over Macron's proposal, fearing it would be interpreted as a sign of protectionism in a time when Europe wants to reinforce its trade policy.

Varadkar said “trading nations”, the Nordics and the Benelux countries want to avoid "any effort to use this proposal as a Trojan horse for protectionism".

The measure, however, is mostly aimed at China, although it was not mentioned by name in the conclusions, which has been pushing to buy European high-tech companies and businesses with valuable and unique intellectual property.

In Germany, for example, a recent acquisition of a leading robot-maker Kuka by Chinese firm Midea has caused concern.

EU leaders urged EU institutions to swiftly implement anti-dumping measures, currently still under negotiation, to counter Chinese imports.

They also urged the EU executive to come up with ways to "enhance reciprocity" in public procurement and investment.

"Reciprocity is the right way. If we have, for example, access to public contracts in the United States, then we can say 'yes' to access to public contracts in Europe. But if full access was denied then Europe needed an answer," German chancellor Merkel said on Friday.

Since the election of protectionist US president Donald Trump, the EU has been trying to speed up trade talks, particularly with Japan and Mexico, and emphasise that the bloc is open for business.

Focus

EU-China united on climate, divided on trade

Within 24 hours of Trump announcing that the US will pull out of the Paris climate accord, EU and Chinese leaders presented a united front on fighting climate change. But divergence on trade plagues the new alliance.

Focus

EU and China move to fill US void

At a summit in Brussels, EU and Chinese leaders will attempt to deepen ties on trade and climate as US president Trump plans to pull out of the Paris climate deal.

EU preparing to screen Chinese investments

The EU is to screen foreign investments to avoid takeovers in sensitive sectors. But the plan, mainly aimed at China, will raise political and technical difficulties.

EU commission changes gear on trade

The EU executive seeks new deals with Australia and New Zealand, while aiming to overhaul the global investment protection system. It also wants to screen foreign investments.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us