Thursday, August 04, 2005

Doing the decent thing

Listen to Chirac and his merry men and they will tell you how important "le projet" is to France, and all that garbage about being "European", but it would be nice if, once in a while, they actually put their money where their mouths are, and implemented the EU treaties they claim of which they claim to be so much in favour.

Once again, though, they have been found wanting and, in this case, according to Bloomberg, they have been found out. In the frame this time is PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe's second-biggest carmaker, a company which proudly claims on its website to be "a major actor of the European automotive industry".

But, while the company boasts of this grand status, it is not so keen on its customers acting on a European stage. While selling its products in different European countries at remarkably different prices – and mainly cheaper than they can be bought in France, PSA Peugeot Citroen has been denying bonuses to German and Dutch dealers on sales to foreigners.

That means of course, that European-minded Frenchmen (and women), observing that a Peugeot 206, with a pretax suggested price of €10,535 in France, is 16 percent higher than the Dutch base price of €9,067 before tax, or €9,381 in Germany, cannot slip across the border for a quick bargain, as they dealers cannot afford to sell their French cars to French persons.

For this type of practice, Volkswagen AG, DaimlerChrysler AG and General Motors Corp. have already been fined between €35.5 million and €90 million each as part of the commission’s attempts to foster competition, but PSA Peugeot Citroen is unconcerned.

At one denying that they are breaking any EU laws, they are on the other hand confident that the commission will levy smaller fines and, in any case, as we have seen so often, the chances of any French company actually paying any EU fines is quite remote.

In one sense, one can admire the French sang froid in ignoring the commission and its inconvenient rules but what really sticks in the craw is their hypocrisy. If they are that much in favour of "Europe", then they should stick by the rules. Since they so obviously find them a tad troublesome, however, they should do the decent thing and kick them into touch, together with the rest of the European Union.

But then, if they did do the decent thing, I suppose they wouldn't be French.

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