Brussels, 28 February 2009
State aids: the Commission obtains guarantees from the French government on the absence of protectionist measures in the French plan for aid to the automotive sector
In a letter sent today to Mrs Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for Competition, from Mr Luc Chatel, Secretary of State for Industry, the French authorities have undertaken not to implement aid measures to the automotive sector that would contravene the principles of the internal market. In particular, the loan agreements with manufacturers would not contain any condition regarding either the location of their activities or a preference for France-based suppliers. This letter follows repeated contacts between the Commission and the French authorities since the announcement of the French plan for aid to the automotive sector on 9 February this year.
Mrs Neelie Kroes stated that: “I am satisfied with the guarantees set out by the French authorities on the absence of protectionist elements in the plan for aid to the automotive sector. This result shows the importance and the usefulness of a dialogue with the Commission at the planning stage of national aid plans. It was important for the Commission to remove all ambiguity in this case, as Europe must avoid a return to protectionism and its negative consequences for employment in Europe. I am particularly vigilant in this respect."
Following the announcement of the French plan for aid to the automotive sector, on 9 February 2009, the Commission has had regular discussions with the French authorities (see also MEMO/09/50).
As a result, the French authorities have declared that the envisaged aid measures would not affect the freedom of manufacturers to develop their economic activities in the internal market, and in particular would not prevent the manufacturers from adapting their production to future market developments, by revising their strategic plans if necessary. The loan agreements to be concluded with the manufacturers will not contain any condition concerning either the location of their activities or the requirement to prioritise France-based suppliers. These formal undertakings by the French authorities were communicated today in a letter from Mr Luc Chatel, Secretary of State for Industry, to Mrs Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for Competition.
The Commission will of course monitor closely the implementation of this plan.