France, Italy set deadline for EDF-Edison deal
ROME, Jan 25 (AFP) - France and Italy have pledged to reach an agreement on the thorny issue of Electricite de France's holding in Italian firm Edison, French Prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said Tuesday after talks with his Italian counterpart.
“We have decided together to settle this case quickly and we have given ourselves one month to find a solution which allows EDF to be an active and responsible player in the Italian market,” Raffarin said during a news conference here with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
“I am convinced we can find a balanced agreement which allows us to get out of the current deadlock,” he said.
EDF owns an 18 percent stake in Italenergia Bis, the holding company that controls 62 percent of Edison, but the Italian government has blocked EDF’s voting rights in Italenergia at just two percent, claiming the French market is not open enough to competition.
Raffarin has said that the French state has taken steps to open up both EDF and Gaz de France to private capital, and on Monday called on Italy to take similar measures in order for the EDF/Edison issue to be resolved.
In comments at the joint news conference, Berlusconi said the deal to be agreed within a month would also cover access for ENEL to the French market.
The conflict over EDF and Edison goes back to 2001 when the state-owned power giant took a big stake in the privately held Edison, provoking the Italian goverment to make a special decree limiting EDF’s voting rights.
While trumpeting the “excellent relations” between the two countries, Raffarin nonetheless called in a newspaper interview with Il Sole 24 Ore for other European Union countries, particularly Italy, to show the same openness to international investors as France, pointing to difficulties with EDF’s stake in Edison.
Subject: French News