20th Jan 2022

Juncker criticises Brussels on market approach

  • Jean-Claude Juncker opposes "pure market ideologists" (Photo: Luxembourg EU Presidency)

Luxembourg's prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker has attacked the European Commission over its stance that France is being protectionist about it energy sector, amid fresh reports that Brussels will this week take legal action against Paris in other sectors.

In an interview with FT Deutschland, the Luxembourg leader sided with France in its dispute with Brussels over a planned government-orchestrated merger in the energy sector.

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The planned merger between Gaz de France and Suez, designed to avert a takeover of Suez by Italian firm Enel, is seen by Brussels as protectionist, with internal market commissioner Charlie McGreevy recently suggesting France is building "political Maginot lines" around its economy.

Mr Juncker said "I criticise the communication strategy of the commission…It gives the impression that everyone who puts questions to planned or ongoing mergers should automatically be a protectionist. That is a very a-political approach."

While indicating he rejects the term "economic patriotism," used by French prime minister Dominique de Villepin to promote his policy, Mr Juncker also showed he supports Paris' interventionism in substance, saying he understands that European governments resist a Europe which is only interested in the market.

Mr Juncker's backing for Paris comes as the commission looks likely to begin legal action against France on Tuesday (4 April) over a list of 11 "strategic" economic sectors that it wants to keep in French hands, including military technology and gambling.

"It is very uncontroversial in the commission and there is a general agreement that the French have broken EU rules," said an EU official according to the International Herald Tribune.

Juncker against hostile takeovers

Mr Juncker also spoke out against hostile takeovers in Europe.

Together with Paris, Luxembourg is currently spearheading opposition to a planned hostile takeover by the Rotterdam-based Indian steel giant Mittal of European steel firm Arcelor, based in Luxembourg.

It is feared that the move will lead to massive job losses at Arcelor plants in Luxembourg, France and Belgium.

Mr Juncker said "I cannot see why there should be hostile takeovers in the EU."

He demanded that in merger situations, the interests of employees and regions be taken better into account.

"Pure market ideologists overlook that this is about the fate of people," he said.

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