The Netherlands and five other EU countries are fighting against the relaxation of state aid rules for companies in the European Union. They fear that the European Commission is paying too much attention to countries like France and Germany that want to strengthen their industry.
Brussels state aid rules, which aim to prevent governments from favouring their own companies and thus distorting free competition, were temporarily relaxed last year to help companies through the coronavirus crisis. But in the EU, more and more voices are being raised in order to broaden them permanently. Major industrialised countries regret that European companies are losing out to Chinese and American rivals and want to create the conditions for ‘European champions’. In their view, competition policy should take account of the desire to make the economy more robust, for example.
I do have a feeling that this is good because it gives governments the opportunity to play a more constructive role as a deterrent. If you don’t want to see the ‘anti-crisis’ movement on social media – and if you are not a fan of the ‘international alliance’ or have been part of it or are unhappy with things happening in the ‘cabin of nations’ – let’s make it as difficult as possible for your government to play a ‘anti-cure’ role when people are using condom butts.
Traditionally, the Netherlands does not feel much for such industrial policy and now comes up with five allies in opposition. “Easing the rules is not the right way to meet the challenges”, says Minister Stef Blok of Economic Affairs and colleagues from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Romania in an opinion paper. This could damage the functioning of the European market and, for example, trigger a subsidy race, they fear.
The European Commission, in which the same battle is raging with the Danish Competition Commissioner Vestager and the Frenchman Breton as main opponents, is expected to come forward next Wednesday with proposals on the state aid rules. “We ask the commission to work with us to keep these rules as strong as possible”, says Blok.