The pressure on the French government over the future of Compagnie Generale des Constructions Telephoniques was increased further at the weekend when EEC Commission president – and finance minister in the previous French socialist administration – Jacques Delors broke the silence he usually maintains on sensitive political issues, and urged Jacques Chirac to choose the bid for CGCT from Siemens AG over the rival claims of AT&T-Philips, L M Ericsson, Northern Telecom and Italtel. His argument is that such a gesture is keenly needed at this juncture to promote collaboration within the European Economic Community. There is no doubt in my mind that West Germany is increasingly reluctant to press forward in Common Market industrial co-operation, he told the International Herald Tribune, but deciding in favour of Siemens would represent one of the most important coups for European industrial co-operation in 1987. The French cabinet remains sharply divided on the rival claims of AT&T and Siemens, but there are as yet no signs that Italtel of Italy is being seen as a compromise candidate that would provide a solution as European as Siemens (Sweden, where Ericsson is based, is not a member of the Economic Community), and could form a new pole around which other small European manufacturers, notably Plessey of the UK, could congregate. Delors is also opening old wounds in his arguments in favour of Siemens, pointing out that Bonn has never forgiven the French from pulling CII out of the Unidata computer consortium with Siemens and Philips in 1976. CII instead became the majority partner in a new CII-Honeywell Bull company in which the US firm held 47%. The French move was seen as a sell-out to the Americans at the time and chavinistic journalists pointedly took to calling the firm CII-Bull, but ironically its direct successor, Groupe Bull, is due to take control of Honeywell’s worldwide computer interests this month. Delors suggests that a deal with Siemens on CGCT would heal the scars left by the Unidata affair.
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