In a bizarre step, the EU’s competition commissioner Margarethe Vestager warned a deal between French and German rail giants Alstom and Siemens would not be done to compete with Beijing-backed firms because the bloc does not want to undermine other member states. She also warned the same with another merger on the cards between German firms Wieland and Aurubis, which both produce copper products and alloys used in manufacturing. In a speech in Berlin, Ms Vestager warned “Europe would not build these champions by undermining competition”. It comes as the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium complained the merger would result in the “widespread” loss of competition.
A source familiar with the situation told the Financial Times there was “an awful to of political pressure building”.
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire warned Ms Vestager of the dangers of applying “obsolete” competition rules that could essentially give China the upper hand.
A European Commission spokesman said that no decision had been taken and that it would “depend on effective remedies offered by the two companies regarding the competition concerns raised during the merge procedure, including by a number of national competition authorities”.
Ms Vestager is no stranger for being mocked over controversial decisions.
On Christmas day she demanded women be picked for EU ob automatically - regardless of their qualifications or whether they are deemed fit to take up the role.
In a bid to make Brussels more diverse, the hotly tipped successor to Jean-Claude Juncker said: “It would be good if all member states nominated both a man and a woman to be able to compose a diverse commission.”
Referring to her native Denmark, she added: “When we appoint at home for advisory boards, we normally suggest both a male and a female because we want a balance.”
Currently nine women make up the 28 commissioners in Brussels
A decision on the rail merger will be made by February 18.