EU, GM to meet on Opel

18th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

The EU commission has invited General Motors and EU economic ministers to meet in Brussels discuss the future the US automaker's Opel and Vauxhall plants in Europe, an EU spokesman said.

Brussels -- The spokesman for EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, confirming a German media report, said the meeting had been called "to talk about plans for the European operations."

The aim is to talk about the future of GM Europe and to "coordinate," he said.

General Motors jolted the European auto sector earlier this month when it scrapped a decision to sell off its European operation to Canadian auto parts maker Magna International and Russian state bank Sberbank.

The US company decided instead to hold on to Opel and Vauxhall and restructure the European unit itself.

Germany had backed the planned sale and offered several billion euros in aid to support the transaction.

"The (EU) commission is strictly opposed to a race for subsidies" to finance the restructuring of GM's European unit, Verheugen told the German Rheinische Post newspaper in an interview to appear in its Wednesday edition.

"We need a European solution based strictly on economic criteria," he said.

The newly named head of GM Europe Nick Reilly is expected to attend the session.

Germany is home to about 25,000 Opel workers, roughly half of GM Europe's total workforce, and the government had lobbied hard for Magna's bid in hopes of keeping all the German plants running.

Other European countries where Opel has factories like Britain, home to Vauxhall, along with Spain and Poland feared they would bear the brunt of the sale.

There are also GM Europe plants in Austria, Belgium and Hungary.

The proposed deal also caught the attention of EU regulators, which before GM slammed on the brakes were checking whether German aid was only offered to Magna, and not to other bidders, and therefore broke EU rules.

The German government could now decide to assist Opel through a fund created to help companies hit by the global economic crisis.

Verheugen said such an approach was possible but would have to adhere to "strict conditions."

The EU commission has organised two other coordinating meetings on the issue, in March and May.


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