France yields at last on open electricity market

FRANCE PLEDGED yesterday to finalise by mid-February long-delayed legislation ending the monopoly of state utility Electricite de France (EdF) and opening its electricity market to competition.

Last week the European Commission started legal action against France and Luxembourg over their failure to put in force a European Union law partially opening their electricity markets to competition.

But Christian Pierret, the French Energy Minister, told a meeting of EU energy ministers that he could guarantee the French law would be on the statute books by February.

The EU electricity law, which was supposed to come into force in February this year, requires EU states to allow major users making up at least 25 per cent of electricity consumption to choose their suppliers.

France's assurance came after ministers - led by the Netherlands, Britain and Spain - had criticised France's lateness in applying the EU directive. Britain and Germany have complained that it is unfair for EdF to buy companies in their markets while British and German companies are locked out of the French firm's home turf.

Despite the pledge, the Dutch economics ministry confirmed it would partially ban imports of French electricity until the market is opened.

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