France, Germany pledge tighter industrial ties

26th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Oct 26 (AFP) - German Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy pledged Tuesday to work "as closely as possible" in areas of industrial policy, seeking to heal rifts that have recently opened up between the two European economic heavyweights.

BERLIN, Oct 26 (AFP) - German Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy pledged Tuesday to work "as closely as possible" in areas of industrial policy, seeking to heal rifts that have recently opened up between the two European economic heavyweights.

"We have both decided to work as closely as possible in issues of economic and European industrial policy," Clement announced following a meeting with Sarkozy.

The two ministers had decided to set up a working group in charge of examining "the possibilities of cooperation notably between companies from both our countries," Clement said.

The working group, which would hold its first meeting in Berlin on November 16, comprised five corporate bosses from each country.

Spokesman for the French side would be Jean-Louis Beffa, the head of Saint-Gobain whom French President Jacques Chirac recently put in charge of big industrial projects.

And spokesman for the German side would be Gerhard Cromme, head of the supervisory board of heavy industry giant ThyssenKrupp.

Sarkozy and Clement also decided to set up Franco-German centres of technology and were scheduled to meet again in Paris to talk about this issue.

In addition, the two ministers agreed to "promote and strengthen, via closer consultation, industrial policy within the EU, making growth, competitiveness and employment the main priorities."

They also pledged to "support fair competition within the EU, particularly in areas of fiscal policy and of structural policy."

Further details were expected to be revealed at a joint news conference by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac later on Tuesday.

Franco-German relations have been marked by tensions recently in matters of industrial policy.

An initial meeting between Clement and Sarkozy, originally scheduled for October 14, was called off at the last minute by Clement.

Berlin has been highly critical of what it deems to be Sarkozy's interventionist policies, particularly with regard to the recent takeover of Franco-German life sciences group Aventis by French drug maker Sanofi, or with regard to the state-engineered rescue of technology giant Alstom, parts of which Siemens had been hoping to buy.

The German government has also been noticeably cool about the concept put forward by Paris for the creation of a European shipbuilding giant.

Berlin objects to the merger of French naval shipbuilders DCN and French defence electronics group Thales with the corresponding activities of German firms ThyssenKrupp and HDW to form a European giant similar to EADS in the aerospace sector because DCN is still state-owned, recent press reports have suggested.

Furthermore, Berlin has rejected Sarkozy's proposal that Alstom's loss-making civilian shipbuilding activities should be incorporated into any EADS-like tie-up.

Alstom has been looking for a buyer for its loss-making shipyards for years.

In a sign the two sides were keen to mend their differences, Clement and Sarkozy jogged for a half-hour together in Berlin's central Tiergarten park early on Tuesday.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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