STRASBOURG, Mar 16 (AFP): The European Commission sounded an alarm yesterday against protectionism within the European Union and vowed to defend competition in the 25-nation bloc.
Speaking before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, European Commission President Jose Mauel Barroso warned that member states that shielded companies only left them ill-prepared to compete in global markets.
"In a globalised world, no member state can go it alone. This is not the time for economic nationalism," he said.
A fierce debate is raging in Europe over the state's role in the economy after a series of high-profile corporate deals that fuelled concerns of a rising tide protectionism among EU countries.
"Defending national champions in the short-term usually ends up relegating them to the second division in the long-term," Barroso warned. "More efficient companies that have been subjected to the full rigour of competition leave national champions behind as they move into international markets," he added.
Concerns about protectionism have so far focused on Rome's claims that Paris engineered a merger between state-controlled Gaz de France (GDF) and utilities group Suez to thwart a rival bid for the latter from Italian energy group Enel.
Although the GDF-Suez deal has grabbed the limelight, other recent deals have also stoked concerns about protectionism.
Madrid is currently studying ways to keep German energy giant E.ON from buying Spanish group Endesa despite warnings from the European Commission.