Takeovers row clouds Schroeder, Chirac summit

14th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

AACHEN, Germany, June 14 (AFP) - Germany and France will seek to create momentum Monday for the adoption of the first-ever European constitution this week in Brussels, but a brewing row over corporate takeovers threatened to overshadow their bilateral summit.

AACHEN, Germany, June 14 (AFP) - Germany and France will seek to create momentum Monday for the adoption of the first-ever European constitution this week in Brussels, but a brewing row over corporate takeovers threatened to overshadow their bilateral summit.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac were due to meet in the western German city of Aachen after voters punished EU ruling parties in European Parliament elections over the weekend.

Both Schroeder, a Social Democrat, and Chirac, a conservative, emerged weakened from the EU poll after their parties suffered humiliating losses, giving the constitution campaign a new sense of urgency.

The evening summit in Aachen is part of regular bilateral meetings staged by the countries that view themselves as the twin engines of European integration.

The new EU constitution is aimed at streamlining decision-making in the bloc, whose ranks swelled to 25 member countries in May.

After failing to seal a deal at a Brussels summit in December, EU leaders were to try to thrash out a final draft at the June 17-18 meeting, but the effort is under threat by persistent differences over voting rights.

Although they are of one mind on the draft constitution currently on the table, Schroeder and Chirac are locked in an increasingly public spat over industrial policy that could spoil the show of unity in Aachen.

Schroeder took French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to task this month for over a state bail-out plan for ailing engineering giant Alstom after German rival Siemens had shown interest in acquiring some of the company's key assets.

Reportedly branding the effort "nationalistic," the chancellor said that the blockade against Siemens' involvement appeared to be a strategic move ahead of the European elections 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," Schroeder told French daily Le Figaro.

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

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin hit back at the criticism last week, saying defending French national interests did not have to undermine the special Franco-German relationship.

"It is normal that our companies are often competitors, but it is our duty to act in a way that European strategies can be inspired by the French-German accord," he explained on France's LCI television.

"We defended our cause and we are defending jobs, and we are doing it on good terms with the Germans," he insisted.

A bilateral industrial summit including Schroeder, Raffarin, Sarkozy and German Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement which was scheduled last month was postponed amid the rift.

A German government spokesman said last week that the meeting would now take place after the Aachen summit.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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