France in protectionist row as Renault switches Slovenia jobs

France was embroiled in a protectionism row yesterday after the government announced that the assembly of some Renault cars would be shifted from Slovenia to the Paris area, creating 400 new jobs.



President Nicolas Sarkozy later insisted that the move would not cause any job losses in a fellow EU state, but the European Commission said it planned to launch an investigation.

M. Sarkozy infuriated eastern European members of the EU last month when he linked €6bn (£5.6bn) in cheap loans to the struggling French auto industry to a guarantee that car-making jobs would remain in France. He even questioned why French car firms needed plants in eastern Europe at all. Alarm bells rang in Brussels and across eastern Europe yesterday morning when the French Industry Minister, Luc Chatel, announced that production of some Clio cars would transfer from Slovenia to a giant Renault assembly plant at Flins in the Seine valley, west of Paris.

"Today, the Renault group will announce that it will repatriate the production of a vehicle that was until now made outside France to the Flins plant, which will be extra output for that factory," M. Chatel said. He claimed that this was a "first sign" that the French aid package to car manufacturers was working.

His comments appeared to confirm the worst fears of Brussels officials and east European governments that the principle of the European single market could be undermined by "economic nationalism" during the recession.

Renault later partly confirmed the announcement, but said that the 400 new jobs in France would not take any work away from Slovenia.

The Renault plant at Novo Mesto, Slovenia had already moved to its maximum pattern of three shifts, a spokeswoman said. Manufacture of an older model of Clio, the Clio II, was therefore being moved to France to cope with increased demand for the lower-priced car, she said.

At the end of an EU summit in Brussels, President Sarkozy also rejected suggestions that Renault jobs were being removed from Slovenia under French government pressure. "This does not take away one job from our Slovene friends," he said. The Renault decision did not come up at the Brussels summit, but was announced as the 27 EU leaders were agreeing a statement to "avoid all form of protectionist measures".

Mr Brown said: "We are an anti-protectionist European Union. We must remain vigilant at all times to any form of protectionism – covert or overt."

The European Commission said that it would seek further information from Paris on the transfer of Clio II production to France.

The EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said she was surprised by the French comments. "If this is the case, it is illegal aid," she told the BBC, adding that she was urgently seeking clarification from M. Chatel.

"I am highly surprised with this last message, for the same person ... wrote me not that long ago, less than a fortnight, to say the loan agreements with manufacturers would not contain any condition regarding either location of their activities or preference for France-based suppliers," she said. The 400 jobs "created" in Flins will in fact mostly go to Renault workers who are regarded as redundant, or are on part-time working, at other plants nearby.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk