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C 374 E/178 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 28.12.


Answer given by Mrs Diamantopoulou on behalf of the Commission

(11 May 2000)

The Commission authorised the merger in question under the powers conferred upon it by the EC Treaty
and in accordance with the Community legal provisions in force. In exercising these specific powers the
Commission restricted itself to competition law issues, as required by the relevant provisions.

The Merger Regulation is partly based on the provisions of the EC Treaty which recognise that distortions
of competition may prevent Community citizens from sharing the benefits of the common European
market in goods and services. In other words, the EC Treaty considers that competitive markets in which
buyers and sellers can act openly and freely are likely to provide the best results for citizens throughout
the Community  in terms of price, efficiency, customer choice, product quality, employment and in
other respects. Consequently, the criterion which the Commission must apply to mergers focuses on their
anticipated effect on competition. The Commission carefully examined the impact of the ABB-Alstom
merger on the structure of competition in the relevant markets within the European Economic Area (EEA)
and conducted a survey to obtain the reactions of competitors, customers and suppliers. Its conclusion was
that there was no risk of serious competition problems, as a result of which, in accordance with the
criteria laid down in the Merger Regulation, it authorised the transaction.

Nevertheless, the Commission, as guardian of the EC Treaty and secondary legislation, is obliged to
examine this type of operation from various angles. In particular, using all the means laid down in the EC
Treaty, it must also monitor and ensure compliance with other Community legal instruments concerned
with this type of operation from other perspectives, such as information and consultation of workers.

As these provisions are imposed by Community directives and national provisions incorporating directives
into national law, it is in the first instance the task of the national authorities to assess any possible
infringements which are referred to them under the procedures for the protection of the rights referred to
in those national provisions.

The Commission also asked the national authorities for clarifications as soon as suggestions of infringe-
ments of these provisions were brought to its attention.

More generally, the Commission fully agrees with the Honourable Member that the expected social impact
of any managerial decision must be the subject of information to and consultation of workers’
representatives at the earliest possible stage, in order to facilitate the search for appropriate solutions
from the point of view of safeguarding jobs. This is the objective of recent proposals in this area, which
the Commission hopes will rapidly come to fruition.

(2000/C 374 E/210) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0883/00
by Glyn Ford (PSE) to the Commission

(22 March 2000)

Subject: Relocation of Commercial Hydraulics from England to Germany

Ultra Hydraulic Ltd. (a division of Commercial Hydraulics) has recently announced plans to close down its
operation in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK to relocate to Germany. This announcement was made
without prior notification to the trade unions, and the move itself will result in the loss of 252 jobs at the
Cheltenham site.

Has the European Commission allocated funds to Commercial Hydraulics for this move, and has it also
checked to find out whether the German Government has allocated funds to the company for this move
and, if so, whether it complied with European Union legislation on State Aids? Does the Commission feel
this lack of consultation about the move corresponds to the spirit or letter of the law on worker
28.12.2000 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 374 E/179

Answer given by Mr Monti on behalf of the Commission

(10 May 2000)

The Commission has not received any notification from the German Government with respect to the
relocation plans of Commercial Hydraulics mentioned by the Honourable Member. It has also from other
sources no information concerning the allocation of funds for this move by the German Government.
Therefore the Commission is not in a position to determine whether the state aid rules of the EC Treaty, in
case they would apply, are respected.

Furthermore, the Commission did not allocate itself funds for this move.

The Commission has no detailed information on the steps taken by Ultra Hydraulic Ltd or Commercial
Hydraulics to inform and consult workers’ representatives on the closure of the Cheltenham site and the
subsequent redundancies. In any case, as a result of Council Directive 98/59/EC of 20 July 1998 on
collective redundancies (1) and the relevant British provisions implementing it, Ultra Hydraulic Ltd is clearly
under the obligation of doing so before implementing any redundancies. Accordingly, it falls in the first
place to the British authorities to assess whether this obligation has been respected.

Relocations or closures as such are not for the moment subject to any explicit obligation to prior
information and consultation deriving from Community law. It was precisely to try to overcome this gap
that the Commission presented in November 1998 a proposal establishing a general framework for
informing and consulting employees in the Community (2), which provides for permanent and regular
employee involvement on strategic developments as well as the foreseeable evolution of employment
within companies. The Commission is actively seeking an early adoption of this proposal.

(1) OJ L 225, 12.8.1998.
(2) OJ C 2, 5.1.1999.

(2000/C 374 E/211) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0891/00
by Bart Staes (Verts/ALE) to the Commission

(22 March 2000)

Subject: Assessment of the dioxin crisis in Belgium

The dioxin crisis in Belgium once again demonstrated how vulnerable the food chain, and checks on it,
are. An assessment such as that made by the Dioxin Committee of the Chamber of Representatives can
help to eliminate problems. Both the European Union and the fifteen Member States have an important
role to play in this.

The Members of Parliament observe, inter alia, that the Union’s rules on sludge differ in substance between
language versions and that at all events they ought to be supplemented and better defined.

Is it true that the rules on sludge differ in substance between language versions, as the Dioxin Committee

(a) If so, how will the Commission ensure that these differences are eliminated?

(b) If not, is the Dioxin Committee wrong to state that the rules on sludge in the European Union differ
in substance between language versions?