Germany has urged the European Commission to relax its strict rules on state aid in cases where EU governments compete with non-EU countries for investment. Berlin wants to introduce a "matching" clause that would essentially nullify the Union’s ban on subsidies and allow governments to offer the same aid package as countries outside the union.
Germany’s proposal would mean that if, for example, a US federal state tried to attract investment from a South Korean chipmaker with the help of massive financial incentives, Germany or France could offer the same level of subsidies.
The plan will be discussed at an informal meeting of EU industry ministers starting today, and no doubt it will be wildly popular in other European capitals.
The week’s parliamentary session in Strasbourg had the usual mix of the sublime, the ridiculous and a dash of unexpected drama. Above it all hung the usual question of what we were doing here by the sunsoaked Rhine. That was given added spice by the revelation by the Green party that the monthly commute to the French city gives off as much carbon as a small island state about to be drowned by global warming.
The drama came on Wednesday when Bronislaw Geremek, the Polish former dissident who has become the conscience of the parliament in the last few years. His refusal to sign a further declaration that he had not collaborated with Communist secret police draw a rare standing ovation. Party leaders rallied to his defence denouncing witch hunts and Stalinism. His 53 Polish colleagues, who have signed the declaratons, were noticeably quieter – except those from the ruling Law and Justice party who howled because the deputy speaker stopped them answering the charges. They – like Geremek – are desperate not to be seen as Euro-quislings. If he has his mandate revoked; the ex-foreign minister said, he could return to Poland and have direct contact with the people, continuing his fight at home. That day also saw a climactic vote to allow medicines derived from embryonic stem cell research on to the market, after a debate that pitched liberals against moral conservatives.
There also was interesting news for air travellers.