Scrutiny of aid pledge
Britain and Belgium urged the European Commission to ensure the takeover of Opel did not favor German workers because of 4.5 billion euros in promised aid from Germany.
Both are wary of the deal with Magna and its Russian allies, under which all four German plants stay open while Antwerp and one of two Vauxhall sites in Britain could close.
"It is important to say that the (European) Commission should not accept anything that looks like a political fix or any linkage between aid and retention of jobs in any specific plant or country," British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson told BBC radio.
Germany hopes Magna’s expertise will preserve as many jobs as possible in Germany where Opel employs 25,000 people, half its workforce.
Kris Peeters, premier of the Belgian region of Flanders that is home to the Antwerp plant, said he and EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen had agreed that commercial and economic, not political, factors were paramount in deciding which plants should survive.
"We are convinced Antwerp has a fair chance. Antwerp has a better chance than certain German plants," he told reporters.
Verheugen and Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes were also due to address a European Parliament debate on Opel aid called by former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
Another former Belgian prime minister and now foreign minister Yves Leterme engaged European counterparts on the Opel issue on Sunday.
Aid from Germany
The Commission said it expected to receive details on aid from Germany in the next couple of weeks and said no subsidies could be given before it was satisfied they complied with state aid and internal market rules.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, worried about potential job losses before an election on Sept. 27, had openly backed Magna over financial investor RHJ.
Germany propped up Opel with a 1.5 billion euro bridge loan in May to ensure it did not get swept into GM’s brief bankruptcy proceedings.
The federal and state governments are ready to provide billions more in aid once the Magna deal closes by the end of November. It will then ask other European countries such as Britain, Belgium and Spain to share the cost.
Germany plans to host a meeting of representatives from countries with Opel plants on Tuesday to discuss possible financial contributions.
Flanders has pledged up to 500 million euros.