PM Peeters wants Opel reports disclosed

Flemish Prime Minister Kris Peeters (Flemish Christian democrat) wants the European Union to disclose all the documents and reports regarding the sale of General Motor's European unit Opel to Magna International Inc. and Russian lender Sberbank. PM Peeters says this will prove that the plant in Antwerp is more profitable than the plant in the German Bochum.
PM Peeters (photo) is referring to documents that Magna and the German government had to submit to the European Commission regarding the takeover of Opel.
According to the German daily Der Spiegel the documents reveal that the Opel factory in Antwerp was more profitable than the plant in Bochum in Germany. Under EU regulations, in this case Bochum would be closed down sooner than Antwerp would be.

At the press conference announcing the decision of GM to sell to Magna, GM negotiator John Smith said that Opel would 'wind down' work at the plant in Antwerp.

Mr Peeters is meeting with the EU Commissioner for Industry Günther Verheugen (German) on Monday. The Flemish PM will demand that the reports on Opel be made public. Flanders is still prepared to earmark €500 million to help Opel, but only on condition that Opel Antwerp can remain operational

Flemish government continues to support Opel

Earlier this week the American car manufacturer General Motors announced that it would sell 55 percent of its European unit Opel to the Austrian-Canadian auto part's supplier Magna and its Russian partner Sberbank. The German government is prepared to give Magna €4.5 billion in state guarantees, on the condition that the Opel jobs would be preserved in Germany.
Opel has plants in Germany, Belgium, Poland, Portugal and Spain and sister brand Vauxhall has plants in the UK.

Last week, GM's chief negotiator for the deal, said Magna planned to keep all four Opel plants in Germany open but could shift production from a Zaragoza, Spain plant to Eisenach, Germany and would "wind down" work at the factory in Antwerp.

The Flemish parties in the governing coalition: the socialists, Christian democrats and the Flemish nationalist N-VA, still believe in the future of the Antwerp Opel plant. "The factory performs very well and could easily withstand a comparison with other Opel plants. If the economic rules are allowed to predominate, Antwerp would stay open," said Ludwig Caluwé, floor leader of the Christian democrats, in the VRT current affairs programme De Zevende Dag.

German elections are coming up: was it an economic or political decision?

It is very much the question whether economic logic has and will play a role in the Opel sale. The trade unions are hoping to keep as many plants as possible open.

Klaus Franz, unionist and chairman of the European Opel works council, said on German radio that he wanted Antwerp to remain operational. But with the German elections just two weeks off, it is clear that German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not want any kind of reckoning. Her government wants to guarantee the 25,000 Opel jobs in Germany with state subsidy.

This attitude has come up against much criticism, both outside as well as inside Germany. Belgian politicians accuse Germany of protectionism. European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes has promised to intervene if the proper rules turn out not to have been followed.