Allowing Alstom and Siemens train businesses to merge would have pushed the prices up.
Criticizing “Brussels” and the Commission is a national sport in France – and one in which the extreme usually thrive.
But when Margrethe Vestager announced that the merger between the Alstom and Siemens train businesses will not happen because of competition issues, the reaction was unanimous from both left and right. The strongest reaction came from Macron’s government. “It’s an economic mistake” lashed out Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy. The EU need champions, rather than strict competition rules, everyone from Marine Le Pen to Jean-Luc Mélenchon argued.
Amidst the noise, it was hard to even hear what the Commission had to say about refusing the merger after an in-depth investigation. The new entity would have led to higher prices for transport companies and consumers. It’s as simple as that.
Getting from Lyon to Paris with the TGV already costs a tenth of the monthly minimum wage. In this regard, trying to answer consumers’ needs seems a reasonable position for the Commission to take.
French politicians do not accept the EU when it does not support France
So why do all French politicians criticize the decision? The answer is simple. It’s not that they really want higher prices for trains. They just do not accept what the EU says when it does not help France’s interests or a French company. And this is not a very pro-European stance.
They could at least recognize, as Les Republicains underline in an article published by L’Opinion, that the Commission has played by the rules – and that the rules need to be changed if we want a different industrial policy.
But accusing Brussels of destroying our industry is way too easy, and way too late.
Back in 2015, the energy part of Alstom was sold in a big hurruy, in just a few weeks, to General Electric. The steam turbines that run nuclear plants are now engineered by Americans – and it’s because Alstom was badly managed and needed the cash. The EU was not responsible for this. So let’s stop putting the blame on Brussels.