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Florange: French Government Never Counted on Nationalization or Ulcos

Translated Saturday 8 December 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

A simple means of exercising pressure, but never a serious solution. That is what Bruno Le Roux stated with regard to the nationalization of Florange. The leader of the Socialists in the National Assembly also explained that the government did not believe in the Ulcos project, aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions in steel-making. Mittal withdrew from the project on Dec. 6.

For Bruno Le Roux, the government made two mistakes in communications when it pretended that there were solutions other than the agreement it signed on Nov. 30 with Mittal. The agreement prevents layoffs but does not provide for any industrial future for the ArcelorMittal plant.

Collateral damage

Temporary nationalization would have required Mittal’s approval, without which “we were embarking on a long and contentious procedure, with possible collateral damage for other plants,” Bruno Le Roux explained to Reuters.

“The mistake was maybe at a given moment to have allowed what appeared to us to be a means of exercising pressure to be seen as the only solution. That’s the reason why (Prime Minister) Jean-Marc Ayrault, perhaps even a bit brutally, took the matter in hand on the evening of Nov. 30. His concern was that he saw very clearly that the workers were tilting toward that solution, a solution that was never viable and was impossible to realize.”

A need for pedagogy

Arnaud Montebourg, the minister for industrial renewal, had spoken of a temporary nationalization to gain time to find a white knight to buy the whole Florange site. French President François Hollande let it be known that the measure was indeed on the table in the negotiations with ArcelorMittal.

“There’s a need for pedagogy in this matter,” Bruno Le Roux continued, for whom the government did not go far enough in its explanations concerning the Ulcos project. "There again there was a problem of insufficient communications. We ourselves were skeptical about Ulcos 1 and we knew that there would have to be a transition to a new Ulcos project,” he explained. “We may have lacked foresight.”
More generally, Bruno Le Roux thinks that the government must still spell out its doctrine on the way that the government can regain a capacity to intervene in the economic and industrial domains.

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