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EU To Host Talks On Opel Future Next Week

Governments in Belgium, Spain, Britain and Germany, among others, have voiced deep concerns over the future of thousands of jobs at GM's Opel plants.

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union will host a high-level meeting between GM and EU governments next week to discuss restructuring plans and aid for the troubled Opel unit, officials said Wednesday.

EU spokesman Ton Van Lierop said the European Commission has invited member countries that host GM plants to the talks on Monday along with Nick Reilly, the head of GM's Adam Opel GmbH and Vauxhall divisions.

"The aim of the meeting is to exchange information and coordinate," Van Lierop said.

Governments in Belgium, Spain, Britain and Germany, among others, have voiced deep concerns over the future of thousands of jobs after General Motors Co. reversed a decision to sell Opel.

The talks at EU headquarters are supposed to clarify GM's plans, Van Lierop said.

Earlier this week, Reilly said that GM hoped to have a decision "relatively quickly -- in about two weeks."

During a visit to London on Tuesday, he said he believed there was a good future for both the Ellesmere Port and Luton factories, which employ around 5,000 workers.

He said GM was looking for around euro3.3 billion ($4.9 billion) in loans from European governments to finance redundancies as well as restructuring. He said this was less than the euro4-5 billion required by Canadian carmaker Magna, which had bid to buy GM's European operations.

Reilly said the company still wanted to reduce capacity by up to 25 percent across Europe, which could equate to three factories, although he stressed that did not mean three plants were going to close.

Reilly said he has received positive signals from Britain's Business Secretary Peter Mandelson and was confident other EU countries would also come ahead with aid that would fall in line with EU rules on state aid.

"We need to put a package together and I hope that all individual governments will be prepared to contribute as well as General Motors," said Reilly.

He reiterated GM's earlier estimate that between 9,000 and 10,000 jobs will be cut across Europe and he stressed that the company will be looking for co-operation from unions in its drive to reduce costs.

Under pressure from EU regulators, Germany told GM last month that aid would be available whether it hung onto Opel or sold it -- and even if it rejected the bid by Magna and its Russian partner Sberbank that Germany openly favored. GM subsequently decided to ditch the planned sale.

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