Belgium disputes German handling of Opel bids

28th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Belgium sought broad European involvement in decisions on struggling General Motors subsidiary Opel, insisting Germany alone should not decide its future, in letters made public Wednesday.

BRUSSELS - The future of Opel, with plants in Germany but also in the northern Belgian region of Flanders, is at stake as GM races against a June 1 deadline to come up with restructuring measures to convince the US Treasury to keep it afloat.

GM also owns Vauxhall in Britain and Saab in Sweden.

Belgium's demand comes with the fate of tens of thousands of workers in the balance as Berlin prepared for a crunch meeting late Wednesday to select its preferred bidder for Opel.

In letters to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Commission, Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy and the premier of Flanders Kris Peeters called for joint European action.

"We are now faced with the involvement on the European side of only the German government in this decision-making process," Van Rompuy and Peeters said in their letter to Merkel.

"Given the spread of the Opel, GM Europe and Vauxhall plants over several European countries we prefer a more global European participation in this process.

"A one country solution for a truly European based company seems not in line with the idea of a European Union and its legislation," they wrote.

In their letter to Barroso, they said: "We call for a new initiative by the European Commission in order to involve the governments of the other countries with GM sites in the discussions on the plans ... ."

Merkel is set to begin talks at 1900 GMT with top politicians from Berlin and Washington, as well as representatives from the three bidding firms that have placed official bids, Canadian auto parts maker Magna International, Brussels-based RHJ International and Italy's Fiat.

And in a last-minute dramatic twist to the long-running saga, Berlin confirmed it had also received interest from a Chinese firm, reportedly the Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation.


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