16th Aug 2018

EU commissioner lashes out against protectionism

EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek have criticised the growing trend towards protectionism in Europe, implicitly targeting France.

Speaking in Paris at a competition meeting of the Organisation for economic cooperation and development (OECD) on Tuesday (17 February), Ms Kroes strongly condemned protectionism and its "false promises" that only lead Europe "deeper into the hole" it was already in.

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

  • Nicolas Sarkozy is giving a headache to EU's presidency and commission (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

"Of course, no politician will admit to protectionist policies. It will be presented under better colours, using national money to protect national jobs. That is rhetoric, not reality," she added.

"We have to protect people by creating for them real jobs with real futures, not jobs that only exist as long as the taxpayers' money exists. That takes leadership. Leadership is not bribing multinationals and stealing jobs from one's neighbours," she argued.

This was an apparent allusion to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's previous calls on French car manufacturers to return home from countries like the Czech Republic.

France is also under the commission's scrutiny for its planned state aid to the national car industry worth €6.5billion, which could be in breach with EU law.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said last week that manufacturers were asked not to close French factories during the term of any loan but insisted that the plan was not protectionist.

Ms Kroes stressed that state aid for the national car industries must be targeted at reforming the sector into green technologies if Europe wants to stay competitive in the global economy.

First class and second class Europe

For his part, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, currently in charge of the EU, repeated his criticism against protectionism, but avoided naming France directly.

"Europe is facing protectionism, populism, a lack of solidarity, finger-pointing, punishing the innocent and rewarding the unnecessary," he said at a Brussels conference, according to AFP news agency.

"Are we really all in the same boat or do we have different decks? Do we have a first-class deck, a second-class deck and a third-class deck? There are those who say we're on the Titanic," Mr Topolanek noted.

He also questioned EU's climate-change targets amidst the economic crisis. "There are those who are adding fuel to the fire in the form of protectionism, there are those who are dancing a climate dance while the ship is sinking," he said.

EU commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking at the same debate as Mr Topolanek, also called for "the exclusion of economic nationalism and protectionism."

"History tells us that such things only aggravate crises," he pointed out.

The Czech EU presidency has called for an extraordinary summit on the economic crisis in Brussels on 1 March, with Prague intending to enforce a focus on combatting protectionism.

EU and US kiss and make up on trade

The US will not impose tariffs on EU cars and might take back ones on steel and aluminium, according to a magical Trump-Juncker deal.

EU 'tax lady' hits Google with record fine

Margrethe Vestager has fined the US tech giant with €4.34bn for abusing its market dominance in mobile operating systems - but assured US president Donald Trump that it is not because she does not like America.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  2. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  3. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again
  4. Genoa in state of emergency following bridge collapse
  5. EU summertime survey closes Thursday
  6. Putin to attend Austrian foreign minister's wedding
  7. Salvini questions EU 'constraints' after bridge collapse
  8. Bosnian Serbs to rewrite 1995 Srebrenica genocide report


Has the time finally come for 'European champions'?

Since Emmanuel Macron took the French presidency in 2017, the concept of consolidating European industries to create continental 'champions', capable of competing on a global scale, has been revived.

EU 'tax lady' hits Google with record fine

Margrethe Vestager has fined the US tech giant with €4.34bn for abusing its market dominance in mobile operating systems - but assured US president Donald Trump that it is not because she does not like America.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  2. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  3. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate
  4. EU court to hear citizens' climate case against EU
  5. How long can Bulgaria keep facing both East and West?
  6. EU commission steps up legal case against Poland
  7. Separation of powers instead of 'Spitzenkandidat' process
  8. Revealed: ExxonMobil's private dinner with Cyprus' top EU brass

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us