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French bosses' leader calls ArcelorMittal nationalisation threat scandalous

Reuters/Charles Platiau

French bosses have described the Socialist government’s threat to nationalise a steelworks threatened with closure as “scandalous” but ministers say they have a buyer for the threatened site at Florange in eastern France.


“This declaration is purely and simply scandalous,” Laurence Parisot, the head of employers’ union Medef told RTL radio on Thursday.

If these statements are meant to add pressure and engage in blackmail as negotiations are happening, they are unacceptable. They are scandalous to the core, because nationalisation is expropriation. [...] Our society is built on an essential principle of property. To undermine this principle is not only very serious, but also very costly.

Laurence Parisot, Medef president

Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg has said he will take over the Florange site if steel giant ArcelorMittal refuses to sell the whole works to a new buyer and carries on with a plan to close the blast furnaces.

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Ministers hit back with Ecology and Energy Minister Delphine Batho describing the proposal as “sensible”, while claiming that nationalisation is not quite the right word, “because it’s really taking temporary control” before selling the works to a private owner.

Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac talked tougher.

“I didn’t hear Mme Parisot get angry when we found out that an employer decided to make a profitable site work below capacity,” he told France Info radio.

Montebourg on Wednesday declared that he had a buyer for the site, although he did not give a name, saying only that it was a steelmaker “who wishes to invest his own money” to the tune of 400 million euros.

Trade unions said that the government was ready to sell a one per cent share of power giant GDF Suez to finance the nationalisation of Florange, a claim that Montrebourg denied.

With unemployment rising again last month, the battle to save Florange has become emblematic of the government's capacity to save jobs.

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