El NO de Francia al proyecto de Tratado constitucional europeo hundió el proyecto de la construcción política de Europa en una crisis sin fondo conocido.
Los ataques de nacionalismo proteccionista, maquillados con la terminología del “patriotismo industrial”, amenazan con socavar los fundamentos del mercado único, cuando el presupuesto de la UE continúa consagrado masivamente a las subvenciones agrícolas y Europa continúa retrocediendo en la nueva geografía del crecimiento económico, la productividad y las economías del conocimiento.
Financial Times publica dos artículos sintomáticos, que reproduzco como material de estudio y trabajo:
(1) Financial Times, 1 marzo 2006
Protectionist storm shakes EU’s single market
By Tobias Buck in Brussels
Published: February 28 2006 23:59 | Last updated: February 28 2006 23:59
Just over four months ago, Charlie McCreevy raised eyebrows when he warned of a “strong wind of protectionism” blowing through the European Union.
Today, that wind has turned into a storm that is threatening to tear apart some of the principles on which the Union is founded.
Within the past few weeks, the EU internal market commissioner has seen governments in Madrid, Paris, Warsaw and Luxembourg hardening their opposition to foreign takeovers.
Stung by France’s move to fend off a possible bid from Italy’s biggest energy group, the government in Rome this week also ratcheted up its protectionist rhetoric.
More trouble could be in store. On Tuesday the Commission began examining French justification for its decision to protect 11 sectors from foreign takovers.
Even though Commission officials stress that some countries may be violating the spirit rather than the letter of the law, the hostility to foreign takeovers is raising serious doubts over whether the 25 EU members are committed to the idea of a borderless, open and competitive market.
Mr McCreevy said on Tuesday: “Some…hanker after protectionist barriers not only on the Union’s external borders but internally as well. Such an attitude strikes at the very heart of the freedoms enshrined in the treaties and I will never accept it.”
The architects of the internal market have watched recent developments with growing dismay. While protectionism has never really been defeated, attacks on the free market have become more numerous and aggressive, they say.
Karel van Miert, who served as a European commissioner for transport and competition between 1989 and 1999, told the Financial Times on Tuesday : “The vehemence we have seen recently in the Mittal case, in Spain and in Poland is indeed something new and rather worrying.”
He added: “Some countries have always been rather protectionist in the sense that they did not like at all to see their companies being taken over by others from abroad. What has not been around all the time is that you are now getting it [protectionism] all over the place and even in the new member states such as Poland.
“What we are seeing is on the one hand very worrying, because it shows there is a reluctance to accept the logic of the single market. But it also shows that liberalisation is making some headway. Especially in the energy sector, we are seeing the beginning of a consolidation game – and this does trigger great resistance.”
Alasdair Murray, director at CentreForum, a liberal London-based think-tank, agrees the recent flurry of deals reflected the progress the EU has made in tearing down national barriers.
“The energy sector has been steadily opened up [by the EU] and is now absolutely ripe for takeovers and consolidation,” he said.
Though he conceded that the Commission faced a “tough battle” in turning around the tide of protectionism, Mr Murray said: “The single market has gone forward not backwards over the last five years.”
Yet some point to a more sinister reason for the rise in hostility towards foreign suitors. “One factor is clearly the current economic malaise gripping Europe. In times when the macroeconomic conditions are less favourable, protection is always on the rise,” said Jean-Pierre Casey, research fellow and financial policy expert at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies.
High levels of unemployment in western Europe have hampered efforts to open the European services market to more cross-border competition. The centrepiece of those efforts – the services directive – now looks certain to take effect only in a heavily diluted version. Much of the hostility towards the services directive has fed on fears that workers in countries such as Germany and France would be swept aside by an influx of cheap service providers from the new EU member states in eastern Europe.
EU enlargement may also have fuelled protectionist sentiment. The EU of today is, after all, a less cosy and less homogenous place than it used to be. But perhaps the most worrying reason for recent developments is that protectionist measures in one country appear to trigger protectionist responses in other EU member states.
On Tuesday Italian politicians called for French takeover bids for Italian groups to be blocked, in retaliation for France’s efforts to protect its energy sector.
“There is a risk that over time this dynamic triggers a series of tit-for-tat reactions,” said Mr Casey. “That is precisely how the great depression started: one country after the other erected barriers and finally free trade just ground to a halt.”
To counter that threat, the Commission will take a hard line, Mr van Miert said. “The Commission must continue to act against all these practices and ensure that the rules are respected.”
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(2) Financial Times, 1 marzo 2006
Paris faces backlash on energy champion
By Martin Arnold and Peggy Hollinger in Paris
Published: February 28 2006 22:23 | Last updated: February 28 2006 22:23
France risked becoming “the cantankerous neighbour” of Europe and suffering a protectionist backlash, the head of the country’s biggest institutional investor warned on Tuesday as the government attempted to ward off foreign bids for Suez and Arcelor.
The comments by Henri de Castries, chief executive of French insurer Axa, amount to the sharpest domestic criticism of Paris’s protectionist stance since the takeover battle for Arcelor, the Luxembourg-based steelmaker, started early this year.
They came after the French government this week announced plans to create a French energy champion by merging Suez with Gaz de France to make Europe’s second largest energy group.
That move, which came after utility Enel revealed it was considering a hostile bid for Suez, has sparked outrage in Italy. On Tuesday, Romano Prodi, centre-left challenger for the premiership in Italy’s election, said he would support the creation of an Italian energy champion by merging Eni and Enel.
Mr de Castries said: “States that systematically consider that their companies have the right to make hostile bids in other countries but no one has the right to do the same to them risk paying a very high price for this in the coming years.”
The Axa chief praised the French government’s willingness to privatise GdF by merging it with Suez but warned the deal could instead be seen by the government as a “renationalisation” of the Franco-Belgian group. The state plans to keep at least 35 per cent of the merged entity.
“I hope we are not inventing nationalisation at 35 per cent,” he told the Financial Times in an interview to coincide with Axa’s annual results on Tuesday.