Spain defends national interests amid EC threats

13th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

13 March 2006, MADRID — Despite criticism for protectionism, Spain and France said European states must look after their needs by creating large groups capable of competing in an international market.

13 March 2006

MADRID — Despite criticism for protectionism, Spain and France said European states must look after their needs by creating large groups capable of competing in an international market.

The move came at a meeting of Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin in Madrid on Monday.

Both countries have been criticised by the European Commission for protectionist policies with regard to their respective energy sectors.

Spanish finance minister Pedro Solbes was last week quoted by the Spanishg daily El Pais as saying liberalisation of Europe's electricity sector had failed.

This came amid an attempt by Madrid to block the attempted takeover of Spanish electricity company Endesa by the German group E.ON.

Spain prefers to create a 'national champion' and had earlier given the green light to a rival bid by Spain's Gas Natural.

Solbes denied protectionism but said that "in a sector as strategically important as energy, acquisitions could affect the supply of energy leaving governments powerless to do anything about it".

"Europe buys more than half of its energy from outside," said de Villepin.

He said it was therefore "indispensable to create big European energy groups who are able to compete in the international arena".

He also described France and Spain as "strategic European partners."

The European Commission has warned Spain not to build protectionist walls around its utilities.

France has similarly been the target of criticism from the Commission, whose president Jose Manuel Barroso last week attacked Paris' "economic patriotism" after state-controlled Gaz de France announced it would buy French power and water group Suez.

The move angered Italy, because it saw the move as an attempt to block a takeover of Suez by the Italian energy giant Enel.

Enel has asked the EU Commission to investigate the deal.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news 

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