Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300
WEDNESDAY 8 JULY 1998
DRABBE and MR
300. I think we are going to have to move
on because I know you have got other appointments. Could you just
answer one question which is, looking into a crystal ball, where
is it all going to be in five or ten years' time?
(Mr van Miert) Well, certainly there will be world
alliances because, with globalisation going ahead, there might
well be good arguments for that, but we have to be extremely careful
that that is not going to lead to the carving up of markets. It
is already happening to some extent and it might happen further
and indeed that is what I told my colleagues. I said, "Look,
it might well be that some of them today feel that we are tough,
but it might well be in a few years' time we are ready to admit
that they are right" because we had to discuss this with
national governments and with the companies, so we are not alone
and from the point of view of competition, you might indeed argue
for stricter measures, but it is more complicated.
(Mr van Miert) Well, politics
Lord Thomas of Macclesfield
302. You have to play with the hand you
(Mr van Miert) I must admit that with Margaret
Beckett we have been able to have real factual discussions, and
I would like to underline that because we were able to discuss
problems, competition problems, and see how they could be addressed.
Obviously there was some concern that it should not go beyond
what was strictly needed and I understand that, but it has been
a fair discussion with the DTI and even if sometimes we have had
some difference of opinion on one issue, at the end of the day
we were able to bridge the gap.
303. There are at least two of us who are
very pleased to hear that.
(Mr van Miert) It is a fact. It is just a fact.
304. Possibly three!
(Mr van Miert) It is fair enough to say that.
305. Would you see mergers occurring between
European airlines, true mergers?
(Mr van Miert) Yes, but it is still politically
and psychologically very difficult.
306. You have still got this national airline
(Mr van Miert) So it is probably more about the
bigger company acquiring the smaller company and it might well
be that once the problems have been sorted out with Switzerland,
they are going to take over, but they are not going to have a
bigger share than 49 per cent of Sabena, so things are like that.
I was in Portugal yesterday talking to different ministers and
they still very much want to keep TAPan alliance, yes,
but another company acquiring a majority stake in "their"
company, that is still a bridge too far.
Lord Thomas of Macclesfield
307. Is it so in the northern part of Europe?
Is the attitude changing in the Scandinavian countries and Germany
or are they just as bad as Switzerland?
(Mr van Miert) It is all over the place. You have
the SAS system, but for the rest it is all over the place and
I cannot see the Dutch giving up KLM, let us say. There have been
attempts in the past. The Belgians had a lot of trouble and all
the evidence is that Sabena were completely down and they accepted
the Swiss solution, so for the rest it is going to remain for
a considerable time very comparable.
308. Well, thank you, Commissioner, very,
very much for sparing so much time in your very busy schedule.
(Mr van Miert) You are welcome.
309. It has been very, very interesting
and I hope you will read our report.
(Mr van Miert) If we can be of any further help,
please let us know. It has been a pleasure to speak with you today.
Chairman] Well, thank
you very much indeed.