» France’s plans to buy 15 high-speed trains to save a historic factory months before national elections has sparked controversy in Brussels — and not just because there are no tracks to run them on.
France announced last week that its heavily indebted national rail operator SNCF would order six high-speed trains and the state would buy 15 more. The timing and details of the deal, worth up to €1 billion, were met with skepticism in the European Union, which prohibits governments from giving special treatment to select companies.
In a surprising comment Friday, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told journalists, “No, we have so far of course no concerns, it’s not a case on our table,” Reuters reported.
France’s unpopular Socialist government, which has struggled to breathe life into the economy, also insists no rules have been broken. Those remarks will anger critics.
The European Commission must “have a thorough look at this dodgy decision which very much looks like a Socialist election stunt,” said Markus Ferber, an influential German MEP from the center-right.
Even Dominique Riquet, a French liberal MEP who is the deputy chair of the European Parliament’s transport committee, said “I am perplexed. The trains are being bought by the French state but as far as I know it is not a transport company.”
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