Ambassador of France to India H.E. François Richier replies to questions by the Indian Express on the recent dispute between ArcelorMittal and the French government.
To what extent was the French government influenced by press reports in deciding to back off from the nationalisation threat?
Not at all. Temporarily nationalising the Florange steelworks was an option raised during the discussions with ArcelorMittal. Temporary nationalisation has been recently done in the United States and the United Kingdom for their finance and automobile sectors. In France, it has also been a successful option for Alstom in 2004. Ultimately, ArcelorMittal and the French government found a mutually-agreed solution. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has clearly stated that this has always been our preferred option.
The Prime Minister said the company would keep the furnaces in working order for future use in a test project for eco-friendly steel production. Is this plan feasible to monitor?
Actually, ArcelorMittal and the French governement have found a way not only to solve the issue of the Florange site but also to prepare for the future. ArcelorMittal will keep the blast furnaces in a state that allows, in time, the realisation of an industrial high-tech project. This project, called ULCOS, is already underway and consists of producing steel through energy-efficient and eco-friendly means: carbon capture and sequestration. The French government and ArcelorMittal will continue the investment programme and the studies undertaken in this direction.
Isn’t the French government’s conduct in this case setting a pattern for monitoring employment and investments in private sector?
Everyone understands that the question of the Florange site is a particular case. It dates back to the commitments, especially the social commitments, made in 2006 by the group during the takeover of Arcelor. The French authorities want these commitments to be fulfilled. In this case, the government’s handling reflected its deep attachment to finding mutually-beneficial solutions with industrial groups.
Recently the agency Invest in France was in India to encourage Indian investment into France. To what extent would the fall out of this affair impact the message it was attempting to spread?
France’s assets are its highly qualified workforce, the most attractive research tax credit in Europe and the quality of its infrastructure. But more is to come in terms of attractivity with the measures contained within the National Pact for Growth, Competitiveness and Employment.
How does the government plan to sell the deal to the workers unions?