Frankfurt: Germany will seek a “good European solution” over state aid to loss-making carmaker Opel, and does not expect the European Union to block any deal, economy minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said on Thursday.
He was seeking to calm a growing political storm over €4.5 billion ($6.63 billion) in aid to Opel that Berlin pledged if a group led by Canadian automotive group Magna got to buy a majority stake in Opel from General Motors (GM).
GM agreed this month to sell a 55% stake in Opel to Magna and its Russian partner Sberbank.
Other European countries with Opel plants such as Britain and Belgium question whether Germany was trying to safeguard jobs at home by dangling the aid for its preferred bidder Magna, which beat out a rival offer from financial investor RHJ.
“We want to get a good European solution with all our European partners and not have everyone against everyone else,” Guttenberg told reporters at an event in Frankfurt.
“By absolute numbers (of job cuts) we in Germany are the hardest hit,” he added.
He said tying state aid to the preservation of certain plants would violate EU rules, adding: “We do not expect a veto from the European Commission.”
Britain has questioned the viability of Magna’s plan to buy Opel in a letter to European competition chief Neelie Kroes, the Financial Times reported.
In the letter which the paper said it obtained, British business secretary Peter Mandelson says the Canadian company’s restructuring plan would be open to political intervention, too expensive and punitive of productive plants.
“We do not believe the case has been demonstrated that the current Magna proposal is commercially the most viable plan,” the FT quoted Mandelson as saying in the letter,
The European Commission reiterated on Wednesday that it would examine whether Germany had tied promised state aid to the preservation of Opel plants there.
Magna and Sberbank are in talks with GM and Opel labour to work out the final details of the plan, which they hope can be struck by early October.
They intend to cut about 10,500 jobs from an Opel workforce of 50,000 across Europe. The Opel plant in Antwerp, Belgium, is seen as especially at risk of closure.
Britain is concerned the German aid could spell more job losses for British workers at the two plants in England.