Belgian union gives guarded welcome to Opel rescue deal
BRUSSELS - A Belgian union official gave a guarded welcome Saturday to the German government's deal struck with a Canadian firm and its Russian backers to rescue US giant General Motors' Opel unit.
Both he and local politicians in the northern region of Flanders, where Opel has a factory, expected tough negotiations ahead. But the local governor said he would offer public money towards saving the Antwerp plant.
"A very important step has been taken, thanks to which Opel will not sink if General Motors collapses," Rudi Kennes of the socialist FGTB union at Opel’s Antwerp plant told the Belga news agency.
"In the next few weeks negotiations will take place with the buyers on the future of the Antwerp factory," he said.
Speaking separately to television channel RTBF, Kennes said he had spoken last week with officials of Canadian company Magna, who had struck him as "very professional."
"That is good news, but they are also businessmen, so we expect long and tough negotiations," he added.
Kris Peeters, leader of the Flanders regional government, said he was ready to go into talks with an offer of public funding for the local plant.
"In the next few weeks, we will hold talks with Magna and the German government to see what a solution for Opel Atwerp would look like," he told Belga.
"Antwerp has numerous assets which should be highlighted. Moreover, the Flemish government has proposed to put EUR 500 million (USD 700 million) towards a solution."
That contribution could take the form of a public guarantee or a mortgage on the land and buildings at the site, in exchange for guarantees that it would remain open.
Germany on Saturday picked Canadian auto parts maker Magna International and its Russian backers to take over General Motors’ Opel unit, in a deal that will keep the brand on the roads and save as many European jobs as possible.
The negotiations have worried Belgium, which complained of being sidelined by Germany in the fight to keep the 2,500 jobs at Antwerp.
AFP / Expatica