A trans-Alpine energy row has broken out between Italy and France. It comes amid plans for a merger between two French power giants. The move, announced by France’s prime minister, thwarts the Italian firm Enel’s efforts to strike a deal with one of the companies in question.
And the country’s industry minister is furious. “You can’t break free-market rules in Europe,” said Claudio Scajola, who has scrapped a scheduled meeting with his French counterpart in protest. “I think a serious debate is needed in Europe to understand if the rules of competition are still guaranteed or if, in this Europe, governments can intervene with state funds, disturbing the market.” For the Italians, the merger between Gaz de France, in which the French government holds a majority stake, and Suez is evidence of Paris putting strictly national interests first. Suez’s Belgian subsidiary Electrabel was the prime focus of the Italian firm’s interest. French premier Dominique de Villepin said the coming together of Gaz de France and Suez would create a major player on the global energy market.