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What did you say? Competition?

The rejection of the merger between Alstom-Siemens on 6th February by the European Commission angered the German and French governments, although it was welcomed by Alstom's unions and the customary Eurosceptics.

It is difficult so see what's what! European competition rules date back to the last century, at least their inspiration. Perfectly adapted to the continent's economy, they helped modernise, open up and strengthen the economy. They worked and European consumers benefited from them immensely.
But are they still adapted to the world as it is now, in other words, to the competition for hegemony that the major powers are deploying, using everything at their disposal to knock out their competitors?

Europe has more than just its word to say in maintaining its place in this race for leadership. If it aims to remain in the top three by the end of this century, then it has to change its "software". Its only real priority has to be to ensure its position in the world arena. Its law and procedures must become its weapons to achieve this goal. 

In real terms it has to review its competition rules, if it is to consider mergers in the light of world competition, to lead a trade policy systematically based on the idea of reciprocity, to organise itself to protect its technologies and to establish a true European preference for public procurement like everywhere across the globe. 

It is no secret if we say that these recommendations do not meet with unanimous agreement with everyone in the Union. Two traditions clash. The first which is more commercial and mercantile, deems that Europe's small size forces it to stay in line with one of the established camps and that in all events, it should not intervene in the game of economic actors that will decide alone in the balance of power of tomorrow. It can rely on its export successes.

The other, more interventionist, deems that the use of public finances, even if this means having State monopolies, has enabled remarkable scientific and political successes. It can boast the European space programme, the excellence of its medical research, the place of creativity in European society and its ambition - to build a Europe that is not just a project for the continent, but one for the whole planet.

Can these be reconciled? Gradually Europeans are becoming aware that the survival of the continent is now at risk. Debate has to open up between the Member States, because this ambition and its tools require a change in the treaties and possibly a new Europe. Indeed, it serves no purpose to blame the common institutions. We would be better advised to come to agreement with our partners and if 27 cannot do it, then we have to find the ways and means to advance all the same.