2nd Jul 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Green crime-fighting boss urgently required, key MEP says

The European Parliament approved last week a non-binding resolution on illegal logging, calling to extend the EU public prosecutor's mandate to also cover environmental crime. The lead MEP on the file has called for urgent implementation.

News in Brief

  1. EU Parliament 'photographs protesting interpreters'
  2. Poland still failing to meet EU judicial criteria
  3. Report: Polish president fishing for UN job
  4. Auditors raise alarm on EU Commission use of consultants
  5. Kaliningrad talks needed with Russia, says Polish PM
  6. Report: EU to curb state-backed foreign takeovers
  7. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  8. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  2. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  3. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  4. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way
  5. Israel smeared Palestinian activists, EU admits
  6. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  7. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  8. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us