Merkel, Chirac urge 'fair division' of Airbus burden

23rd February 2007, Comments 0 comments

MESEBERG, Germany, Feb 23, 2007 (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac called Friday for a "fair division" of the burden in restructuring crisis-hit European aircraft maker Airbus.

MESEBERG, Germany, Feb 23, 2007 (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac called Friday for a "fair division" of the burden in restructuring crisis-hit European aircraft maker Airbus.

Chirac said after informal talks here that he and Merkel were confident that the management of Airbus would take equitable decisions on job cuts and plant closures in France and Germany and cushion the blow to affected communities.

"There must be no forced redundancies," he said, implying that any job cuts would come through attrition or similar measures.

Merkel said that while the human impact of any restructuring must be minimised, Airbus must be whipped into shape so it can hold its own against international competitors such as Boeing.

"Airbus' competitiveness is the highest priority," she told a joint press conference.

Merkel tried to play down the bilateral tensions the plans have triggered.

"That is normal in such a difficult situation for a company. And this normal approach must in no way be abused to stoke a conflict in any way between two countries -- that is our political message," she said.

"We are politically in complete agreement that that would be the worst thing for this company and its employees in both countries. Germany and France will see Airbus through this difficult time together."

The political temperature has risen between Paris and Berlin this week over the crucial "Power8" restructuring programme of Airbus, a unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS).

The scheme is to be unveiled when the aerospace giant publishes its annual earnings on March 9.

The rescue plan, arising from problems in the A380 superjumbo airliner programme, has already been stalled for four months due to wrangling between German and French interests over where cuts will fall.

On Monday, the company suddenly delayed an announcement due on Tuesday on how the scheme would work, citing conflicting national interests in the development and building of Airbus' next generation of big jets, the A350.

Airbus reacted by saying the plan was urgently needed.

Chief executive Louis Gallois stressed that Airbus "cannot delay any longer" over the plan to save 5.0 billion euros (6.6 billion dollars) by 2010 and 2.0 billion euros per year thereafter.

Germany openly expressed its irritation Tuesday after French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced that 10,000 jobs would be axed at the plane maker.

German government spokesman Thomas Steg insisted that no such decision had yet been taken.

With France heading for presidential elections in April and May, its government is likely to be highly sensitive to big job cuts.

Airbus employs about 21,000 people at seven sites in Germany and German officials are concerned that those sites will bear the brunt of the cuts.

An EADS spokesman reiterated Thursday that no decision had yet been taken, dismissing as "speculation" repeated reports of job cuts.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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