Germany slams 'nationalistic'France over Alstom rescue

7th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, June 7 (AFP) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has stepped up pressure on French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy over his handling of a rescue plan for ailing engineering giant Alstom in a dispute that may come to a head this month.

BERLIN, June 7 (AFP) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has stepped up pressure on French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy over his handling of a rescue plan for ailing engineering giant Alstom in a dispute that may come to a head this month.

Schroeder zeroed in on the high-profile minister over the state bail-out plan in a weekend newspaper interview that carried a highly unusual public dressing-down of a French official.

And Monday, the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) cited sources quoting Schroeder as saying that Sarkozy's helping hand for Alstom was "extremely nationalistic" and "aggravating" after German engineering giant Siemens had shown interest in acquiring some of the company's key assets.

Alstom, which builds ships, high-speed trains and power generation systems, has been on the ropes for some time. It tallied a larger-then-expected net loss in its fiscal year to March 31 of EUR 1.836 billion (USD 2.262 billion).

Sarkozy said late last month he had reached a deal with seven major banks for a capital increase at Alstom.

"Regarding Alstom, I discover sometimes - not by the (French) president - but among members of the government, certain statements that merit reconsideration," a cautious Schroeder told the Saturday issue of French daily Le Figaro.

On May 26, Alstom chief Patrick Kron ruled out any sort of an alliance with Siemens, saying that a tie-up with the German company was not in the interests of customers or shareholders.

Schroeder said in the interview that the blockade against Siemens's involvement appeared to be a strategic move ahead of European parliamentary elections this Sunday.

"Everyone can understand that a finance minister is thinking about the next election, but it is a good idea to think about the day after the vote too," he said.

"We must not allow our friendly relations to suffer."

The FTD reported that Schroeder was particularly piqued because he expected French backing for the Siemens deal after pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi-Synthelabo, with unofficial support from the government in Paris, was able to make a successful bid to take over Franco-German competitor Aventis.Berlin had opposed the merger.

The postponement of a summit on industrial policy scheduled for early June and set to include Schroeder, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Sarkozy and German Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement raised further speculation of a bilateral rift.

A German government spokesman said the meeting would now take place after the European vote Sunday, following a routine summit Monday in the western German city of Aachen including Schroeder, Chirac and their foreign ministers - two gatherings where the subject of Alstom is sure to figure.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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