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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas