|Author (Person)||Chapman, Peter|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.10, No.43, 9.12.04|
By Peter Chapman
GUNTER Verheugen, the European commissioner for enterprise and industry, has attacked the "economic racists" who doubt whether a German is capable of helping to turn the EU's economy into an engine of growth.
Criticism started as soon as it was announced that the German Social Democrat would be taking over the vital competitiveness dossier.
But speaking to European Voice, the commissioner dismissed the idea that Germans - or French - have old fashioned, 'old Europe' ideas that are out of synch with José Manuel Barroso's drive to make the EU the world's best-performing economy by the end of the decade.
"That is economic racism," he said. "They think that if you are German or French, you are old fashioned, and 'you believe in this' or 'you are like that'," he said.
"But I challenge anyone to look at my record. This is an Anglo-Saxon concoction," he added.
He was referring to attitudes in countries such as the UK and Ireland, where 'hire and fire' approaches to help plug the competitiveness gap have taken precedence. By contrast, France and Germany traditionally nurture 'national champions' capable of fighting on global markets and allow workers to wield greater power in the way firms are run.
MEPs said that they would give Verheugen the benefit of the doubt, partly because they admired him for his sterling work delivering EU enlargement on time. But consumer groups and independent firms point out that Verheugen sided with the EU's big carmakers including Germany's Volkswagen, when he opposed moves by the then internal market chief Frits Bolkestein to liberalize the market for car parts.
Verheugen said that the "trademark" of his term of office would be a drive towards better regulation that cuts down unnecessary burdens placed on companies.
But he admitted that there were limits to what the EU could do to bolster growth. It was for member states to make some choices, for instance whether to invest in new cutting-edge technologies, such as stem-cell research.
Member states are already struggling to agree on the use of genetically modified organisms and are unlikely to find common ground on stem-cell research.
Verheugen admitted there was little he could do to overcome the ethical considerations that prevented the EU pressing ahead in this area, for example through joint R&D projects funded by Brussels. "It is up to individual member states" to wrack their consciences on ethical issues, he said.
Newly appointed European Commissioner for Enterprise and industry, Günter Verheugen, dismissed doubts about his ability to lead the competitiveness dossier, being a German Social Democrat.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry, Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Europe, Germany|