A juicio del Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com), las llamaradas “patrióticas” y “proteccionistas” de Francia (Chirac) y España (Zapatero) están agravando los rencores nacionalistas dentro de la Unión Europea (UE).
Las diferencias de criterios, los enfrentamientos, la mutua incomprensión entre personajes como Chirac, Zapatero, Blair y Angela Merkel eran bien conocidas. La palabra “rencor” introduce un matiz psicológico que me parece significativo.
Este es el artículo del Wall Street Journal:
EU’s Protectionist Rancor Worsens
By WILLIAM ECHIKSON
March 15, 2006; Page A9
BRUSSELS – After two days of consultations aimed at calming Europe’s divisions over protectionism, European leaders have ended up more divided than ever, with some warning the issue could harm the stability of the European Union.
European financial and industrial ministers wrangled here over whether to block cross-border mergers, whether to allow a single continentwide energy regulator and whether to do more to block rising imports of shoes from China.
Rather than reaffirming their belief in constructing a giant 25-nation powerhouse able to compete on a global scale, however, countries’ individual interests in so-called economic patriotism, as France has dubbed it, triumphed for the moment.
“It’s difficult to have a common currency” in such circumstances, warned Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti, after he failed to win any change in France’s plans to merge state-run utilities Gaz de France SA and Suez SA, which would freeze out Italy’s Enel SpA from buying in. “This is a turning point for Europe. We are not talking about company takeovers but the future of Europe.”
French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac weighed in from a summit in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, taking umbrage at the idea his government was impeding a European free market. France moved earlier this year to shield a number of sectors from foreign takeovers, but Mr. Chirac said charges of French protectionism were “completely absurd,” and he used foreign-direct-investment figures to contend his country was more open than others such as Germany. Ms. Merkel called his numbers “interesting.” Meanwhile, German President Horst Köhler warned the European Parliament in Strasbourg that “those who weaken the European internal market through protectionism do themselves a disservice.”
The Suez affair is just one sign of the reluctance of European governments to give up control of their corporate champions. Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated his small country’s determination to block Mittal Steel Co.’s attempt to buy rival Arcelor SA — Luxembourg owns an Arcelor stake — and Luxembourg’s Chamber of Commerce proposed anti-Mittal amendments to the country’s takeover law.
Some countries have changed sides of the debate for different cases. Spanish Industry Minister José Montilla defended his country’s energy law that could stymie Germany’s E.On AG from taking over Spain’s Endesa SA. Meanwhile Germany is under pressure from the European Commission over whether Deutsche Telekom AG’s new high-speed network will have to grant access to rivals.
Italy’s Mr. Tremonti attacked not only France but also Poland for blocking Italy’s UniCredit SpA from merging two Polish subsidiaries. But Mr. Tremonti also criticized EU Trade Minister Peter Mandelson for not doing enough to protect the Italian shoe industry from competition it considers unfair from low-cost Chinese rivals.
All the conflicts are rising as the EU heads for a 25-nation summit next week, at which officials of the European Commission hope to push for a common energy strategy and other attempts at unifying around economic goals.
The Polish case raised by Mr. Tremonti is particularly difficult because it has called into question one of the building blocks of the euro currency — independent central banks. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and the chairman of the monthly European finance ministers meeting both have criticized Polish plans to create a national body overseeing all financial sectors and stripping the central bank of many of its powers in order to stop UniCredit. “The central banks of the 25 member states should be independent,” European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said yesterday.
Many of the contested mergers concern energy companies, areas where governments traditionally have played a predominant role. Just last week, the European Commission launched an ambitious plan to construct a common continentwide energy policy. Commission President José Manuel Barroso will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Friday, demanding that other foreign producers gain access to Russian pipelines. But ministers already have rejected the idea of a single EU regulator for electricity and natural-gas markets, saying such a move would violate their sovereignty. Several European countries have been warned they are flouting EU law by failing to open up their energy markets.
The national splits are putting pressure on Mr. Mandelson’s trade policy. The EU trade commissioner, speaking to the European Parliament yesterday, defended his plan to exempt a large number of Chinese shoes from antidumping duties, saying he “cannot shield us from Asia’s natural and legitimate low-cost advantages.” Many members of the Parliament responded by complaining he was being too weak on China and that Europe must defend itself better.
The EU’s 25 national trade officials meet March 22 on whether to ratify his decision. The EU summit begins the next day.
Write to William Echikson at email@example.com