Italy 's Premier Silvio
Berlusconi said Monday that the European Union should
intervene in the planned French energy
merger which is aimed at blocking a potential hostile bid from
Italian energy company Enel SpA, Italian news agencies reported.
Berlusconi's comments followed similar ones earlier in the day
by Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, who said that the Italian
government will point out in Brussels that "respect of the
rules is indispensable."
The premier's remarks came in response to a
question about whether the EU should intervene in the French
merger, the news agencies said. "Absolutely, yes,"
Berlusconi was quoted as saying.
Berlusconi also said Italy's finance
minister, Giulio Tremonti, and industry minister,
Claudio Scajola, "are taking all the necessary steps"
to react to the French move, but did not immediately elaborate,
the agencies said. European Commission spokesman Johannes
Laitenberger said the EU has not yet received any formal
complaint from Italy and refused to speculate on what the
commission might do if it should receive one.
"The European Commission can't say
anything about the details of the whole operation before it has
been notified of it. If the Commission is notified, it will
examine most painstakingly ... whether it complies with the
rules of the internal market, whether rules are scrupulously
observed," said Laitenberger.
Fini said he discussed the matter with
Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti and
Industry Minister Claudio Scajola. "That made by the French
government is clearly a choice of the protectionism kind that
clashes with the values and rules of the free European
market," Fini told reporters on the sidelines of a party
Italian officials have warned of a return to
protectionism in Europe following word that Suez SA and Gaz de
France planned to merge, blocking a potential hostile bid from
Italy 's Enel SpA.
Enel said it had no comment. French Prime
Minister Dominique de Villepin announced the Suez SA-Gaz de
France merger plans Saturday. While Suez is in private hands,
GDF is 80 percent state-owned. Enel , Italy 's largest utility,
announced Wednesday that it planned to make acquisitions in
France or Spain . It said it was considering a move for Suez 's
Electrabel unit in Belgium and didn't rule out a move for Suez
After Villepin's announcement, Industry
Minister Scajola canceled a trip to Paris on Monday to meet
French counterpart Francois Loos. Berlusconi had urged the
French government to remain neutral in any takeover battle
involving an Italian company, reports the AP.