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Business

‘Alstom takeover poses national security risk to France’

© © Marine nationale - Guillaume Izard

Text by Anne-Diandra LOUARN

Latest update : 2014-05-09

A new report argues that the impending sale of French energy firm Alstom – which builds turbines for France’s Navy – threatens the country’s national security and independence.

US engineering giant General Electric and German rival Siemens are currently engaged in a bidding war for Alstom’s energy division. No matter the outcome, France’s security will be jeopardised, says Eric Denécé, director of the French Center for Research and Intelligence.

In a five-page report set to appear on Saturday on CF2R’s website and on the political news website Atlantico.fr, Decéné notes that Alstom provides the turbines on many ships in the French Navy’s fleet, including Western Europe’s largest aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

While ship turbines are hardly the keystone of France’s defence strategy, Paris could soon become dependent on other countries for this necessary component. “No one seems to have noticed this flaw,” Denécé told FRANCE 24.

FRANCE 24: Alstom’s board of directors appears to favour a buyout from the US’s General Electric. You say this carries a risk to French security. Why?
Eric Denécé: The truth is that France is already dependant on Alstom for its civilian and military needs. Its energy division provides all the turbines for French nuclear power plants. It also provides a little more than half of all the turbines for its Navy, including the French navy’s flagship aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, and the turbines in its four ballistic missile nuclear submarines. As for General Electric, they are already provide the steam turbines for France’s six attack nuclear submarines, because they own the French-based subsidiary Thermodyn.

If Alstom’s energy business is bought out by General Electric, the United States will be providing all the turbines for our Navy. It will effectively control the equipment that is fundamental to our nuclear deterrent strategy, and we will have lost our independence.

F24: The French government is supporting Siemens’ bid. What are the implications if the German company takes over Alstom?
E.D.: The Siemens bid is also problematic because Germany is abandoning nuclear power. In the future we could see a German government that actively pursues an anti-nuclear position. What if Berlin refuses someday to sell turbines to the French nuclear power plants near their borders? Both bids, General Electric or Siemens, pose serious problems it appears French leaders have overlooked.

There is no ideal buyer, but the lesser of two evils is Siemens. There is less risk with Alstom staying in Europe, especially because the French and German economies are so interdependent that Paris would always have some leverage over Berlin. In a perfect world, we would be able to keep the energy division in France.

F24: France and the United States are NATO partners and have consistently cooperated militarily. Isn’t your outlook a bit paranoid?
E.D.: The United States has never hesitated to exert its political and economic pressure when it sees fit to do so. I cannot speculate on US policy in the future, but I can point to at least one concrete example from the recent past. When France opposed the war in Iraq in 2003, we were not spared from sanctions. In the future, if there was another strategy disagreement between the US and France, we could see a repeat of the situation. Perhaps there would be delays in the delivery of turbines or other essential parts for our nuclear power plants or our submarines. This is a risk we should not take.
 

Date created : 2014-05-09

  • FRANCE

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    French officials meet Siemens, GE for talks on Alstom's future

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