Britain and Belgium want the European Commission to make sure the takeover of carmaker Opel doesn’t favour German workers because Berlin has promised four and half billion euros in aid.
Both countries are suspicious of the deal with Canadian car parts supplier Magna and Russia’s Sberbank under which Opel’s Belgian plant and one Vauxhall site in Britain could close. Kris Peeters, the premier of the Belgian region where Opel’s Antwerp plant is based said: “It’s very important that this dossier is not a political dossier but an economic and commercial dossier. And we are convinced that Antwerp must have a fair chance; and when there is an economic analysis of the situation we are convinced that Antwerp is a better plant than certain plants in Germany.” He spoke after meeting the EU Industry Commissioner and said Flanders would consider filing a complaint with the Commission. Its spokesman, Jonathan Todd, said: “The Commission will look particularly to make sure there are no conditions attached to the aide; for example, concerning where factories would be closed or which sites would get investment.” At the same time, Magna confirmed that around 10,500 of the 50,000 people working for Opel and Vauxhall will lose their jobs after the takeover is completed. Of those layoffs, 4,500 would be in Germany, but Siegfried Wolf, Magna’s co-chief executive, would not give details of where the axe might fall in Britain, Spain, Belgium and Poland. Wolf said he expects the car maker to return to profitability in 2015.