It’s tough to be a European car maker with a governmental sugar daddy. First you have to make nice with your sugar daddy, and commit unspeakable acts until he shakes loose a few hundred million Euro. Then, the prudes from Brussels shoot the stipend down. Your sugar daddy can say: “Darling, I tried.” He then can go on with the business of bailing out Mediterranean states. So it happened with Renault. So it might happen with Opel.
Renault, 15 percent owned by the French government, received a €100m loan from their governmental shareholder. Supposedly for a good cause: The production of electric cars.
After a careful inspection of the note, the protectors of fair competition in Brussels found what they were looking for: A clause that requires that within two years, Renault has to buy 70 percent of the parts from French suppliers.
“Aha!” said Joaquin Almunia, EU competition commissar in Brussels, and sent a strongly worded note to Paris. Such clauses collide with EU rules, reminds us Das Autohaus. But why should the French help a French company, if the money goes to a parts maker in Slovenia?
“Rules are rules,” says Almunia, and he will “closely monitor” whether the rules are adhered to.
France is a repeat offender. 2009, the French government tried to link loans for PSA and Renault with keeping jobs in France. Brussels showed the yellow card, and Nicolas Sarkozy watered the clause down to a “moral obligation.”
And why are we going through the arcana of EU rules? Just imagine what happens if and when Opel should get bailed out. Every country will carefully write a “keep the jobs at home clause into the loan agreement, as it already happened in the UK.
Then, Brussels will shoot it down. All European sugar daddies will say “we tried our best, darling.” Then, they will turn their attention to more pressing problems.