Keep Politics Out of Europe’s Competition Decisions
Following the European Commission’s recent rejection of the proposed Alstom-Siemens rail merger, France and Germany want to rewrite EU merger rules and give member states more say over proposed tie-ups. But although this approach may seem tempting, Europe would be wise to keep such decisions free from political influence.
TOULOUSE – The European Commission’s decision last month to block the proposed rail-industry merger between Alstom and Siemens was clearly a blow for the two companies. It was also a major setback for the French and German governments, which had strongly supported the deal.
Upset by the decision, France and Germany now want to rewrite EU merger rules and give member states more say over proposed tie-ups. But although such an approach may seem tempting, Europe would be wise not to leave competition policy enforcement in the hands of its politicians.
Supporters of the Alstom-Siemens merger said it would create a European high-speed-train champion to rival China’s CRRC, which operates in a large, and mostly closed, domestic market and – according to the deal’s backers – may soon increase its presence in Europe. But this was not a “no-brainer” merger that would inevitably have made the EU’s rail industry more globally competitive. After all, Alstom and Siemens already dominate their respective national markets for train-signaling systems and high-speed rolling stock.
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