Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

Sarkozy to cut free markets clause from EU treaty

As a surprise by-side move in the debate on revising the EU constitution, French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he has secured the scrapping of a crucial competition clause from the bloc's new treaty, with experts concerned it could undermine Brussels' powers against protectionism and monopolies.

Speaking to journalists after the first session of the European summit on Thursday (21 June), Mr Sarkozy said that his demand to drop a reference to "free and undistorted" competition from the list of the union's objectives received a positive answer from Germany's Angela Merkel.

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  • The French president says he got the green light from Merkel on scrapping the clause (Photo: © Council of the European Union, 2000-2005)

"There was some play on that, but today's presidency document satisfies our demand," he said, according to Reuters.

The competition clause had been mentioned in the European treaties since the very first founding document was signed in 1957. Officials and experts now fear its loss could weaken the commission's role as an antitrust watchdog and a controller of "national champions."

The French delegation also tried to change the wording of the goals of the European monetary union, by highlighting an objective on securing economic growth while dropping a reference to price stability.

The move corresponds with Paris' long-standing criticism of the European Central Bank policy, which has been raising interest rates to curb inflation while keeping the euro strong compared to the US dollar, harming French exporters.

EU diplomats suggested the fiscal change is likely to meet strong opposition from Berlin and other member states, according to the Financial Times.

In another potential change in economic policies, EU leaders appear ready to back calls led by the Netherlands to strengthen the protection of public services from single market liberalisation pressures.

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