A French finance ministry official announced on February 5 that France will make proposals in the coming months to overhaul the European Union’s competition rules. The news comes ahead of an expected rejection of a merger of Alstom and Siemens.
“The rules need to be revised to allow for European champions to emerge,” the official was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.
“Currently consumers interests take precedence over all other general interests. The aim is to know whether other interests can also take precedence.”
According to Reuters, the French and German governments, the most powerful EU member states, have lobbied hard for Europe’s competition enforcer to approve the merger of Alstom and Siemens’ rail businesses. Their efforts, however, are likely to have been in vain, with the European Commission widely expected to veto the deal on February 6.
On February 5, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU executive was not needlessly blocking corporate mergers, a comment seemingly aimed at complaints in France and Germany over its expected rejection of a merger between Siemens’ and Alstom’s rail businesses.
In a speech to industrialists, Juncker said the Commission had only ever blocked 30 mergers and approved more than 6,000.
“This is a message for those who are saying that the Commission is composed (of) stubborn technocrats,” he said.
“This shows that we believe in competition as long as it is fair for all. We will never play politics or play favorites when it comes to ensuring a level playing field.”