With talks on saving carmaker Opel in limbo, the European Commission has called a meeting of the region’s trade and economy ministers. Officially it is “to exchange information and coordinate efforts” but Brussels wants to remind everybody that they must comply with EU rules on state aid with no promises of money in return for keeping factories open.
EC Competition spokesman Jonathan Todd said: “There can be no discriminatory conditions attached. You cannot have a situation where state aid is made subject to for example plant closure being in one member State as opposed to an other.” Talks between General Motors, the German government – which would provide loans – and prospective buyers went nowhere after GM had unexpectedly announced the need for extra financing to keep its European operations afloat. Christoph Stürmer, a car industry analyst with Global Insight blamed GM. He said: “We have witnessed a meeting, for which – I can say that about the Americans – they were not properly prepared. And this is why, this meeting has NOT ended with a bad result, it has ended with NO result at all, because it was simply broken off.” Berlin is keen to move on with the sale of Opel to either Canadian-Austrian car parts maker Magna or Italy’s Fiat and is angry at GM’s eleventh-hour request for an extra 300 million euros. Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck called that “scandalous.”