The EU is preparing to ban the union of German Siemens and France's Alstom on Wednesday, despite pressure from Berlin and Paris, which hoped to create a European rail champion against the Chinese competition.
European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager is due to veto the proposed merger, announced with great fanfare in September 2017, three sources in Brussels and a French government source told AFP.
The Danish Commissioner has repeatedly expressed concern about the effects of this merger. It would reduce the number of rival industrialists in the Union, which could raise the prices of trains and consumption tickets.
The EU executive has not confirmed the announcement of a ban.
Unusually, the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, defended on Tuesday in a speech in Brussels the European competition policy. It had been heavily attacked in recent weeks by the French and German governments, as well as by the industrialists of these two countries.
"We will always allow fair competition for business and ultimately for consumers … We will never do politics or favoritism when it comes to ensuring a level playing field," Luxembourger said.
Formerly praised by French President Emmanuel Macron for his intransigence with GAFA, Vestager became the target of more or less direct attacks from Paris and Berlin.
– "Gift to China" –
The two capitals, as well as industrialists, fear competition from CRRC, the world's leading railway company, due to the merger of two state-controlled Beijing companies.
The CRRC manufactures 200 high-speed trains each year, and Siemens-Alstom 35 recently noted France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
On Tuesday, a French government source said that the expected Brussels veto was "symptomatic of a certain ideology of the Commission that goes against European interests," lamenting an interpretation of the "extremely strict" rules by Brussels. .
According to this source, this refusal is "a gift to China" that sees the opening of the European market, while protecting itself with high subsidies and that its market is "extremely closed today".
On the same day, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier also advocated a policy that favored groupings on a European scale, to create groups capable of playing "equal" on the international scene and a revision of the law. competition law.
"There are no areas such as aviation, railways, banks where you have to take the world market as a reference and not as European?" He said.
Also on Tuesday, the president of the French employers' federation (Medef), Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux, also considered the formation of European champions "indispensable".
A week earlier, Siemens boss Joe Kaeser had beaten the "retrograde technocrats" in Brussels.
The two groups, French and German, tried to soften the European Commission through compensatory measures, selling certain activities. In vain, they prepared for this veto.
Alstom and Siemens Mobility will leave "every one of theirs" in case they hinder their approach, Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge, French daily Figaro, said on Wednesday.
Siemens, on the other hand, hinted that in case of refusal, it does not exclude an IPO from its profitable subsidiary Mobility.
The ban on the merger should make the Belgian and French trade unions alstom happy. They reiterated during a meeting with Mrs. Vestager in Paris on January 21 last their opposition to the project, fearing major job cuts.