Forget free market competition

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: Now, let's go across the pond and find out what's going on in Europe. E.U. leaders are meeting in Brussels today to hammer out a treaty that states the basic principles of the European Union. It's meant to replace a constitution that was scrapped last year. Our European correspondent Stephen Beard is with us. Stephen, I understand there's a bit of controversy here. What's it about?

Stephen Beard: Just six words, a phrase which has been left out of the draft treaty which is under discussion by the E.U. leaders and the phrase is: where competition is free and undistorted. And the fear is that that is now going to undermine the E.U.'s whole competition policy.

Jagow: Specifically how might that play out?

Beard: Well, for example, if a member state was taken to the European court for bailing out a company with taxpayers' money, the government of that country could argue, 'well look, the treaty says we have to promote social cohesion and full employment, it doesn't say anything about competition.' Also multinationals who have been taken to task by European competition authorities, notable Microsoft for example, they might argue too, 'well you know, where does it say in this document about competition? It doesn't say anything about a free market.'

Jagow: Why has this phrase been taken out?

Beard: It was taken out apparently at the insistence of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Jagow: But I thought Sarkozy was supposed to be more free market?

Beard: That's the final irony. I mean for a Frenchman he's free market . . .

Jagow: Right.

Beard: But by Anglo-Saxon standards he's not that free market.

Jagow: Alright Stephen thanks for checking in with us.

Beard: OK Scott.

Jagow: Our European correspondent Stephen Beard.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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