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'Treason!': France to sell Airbus airport to China

Louise Nordström · 5 Dec 2014, 11:48

Published: 05 Dec 2014 11:48 GMT+01:00

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The planned 49.99 percent stake sale of the airport, which is France’s fourth largest, comes as the French government is in the midst of selling off up to €10 billion in assets in a bid to fill the country’s near-empty coffers, under pressure from Brussels.

The Symbiose consortium consists of Chinese financial groups Shandong Hi-Speed Group and Friedmann Pacific Asset Management.

After the expected sale, the French government will retain a 10.01 percent stake in the airport which last year saw about 7.5 million passengers pass through its gates.

In an interview with regional newspaper La Dépêche du Midi, France’s Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said: “This is not a privatisation but rather that the capital is being opened up in which local authorities and the government remain main stakeholders with 50.01 of the capital.”

“We’re not selling the airport, we’re not selling the runways nor the buildings which remain in the government’s ownership,” he was quoted as saying."

Nevertheless the controversial move has sparked anger in some quarters.

French Gaullist and sovereignist MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan described the sale as treason.
"I am ashamed of this minister who, in order to obey Brussels commissioners, is now selling our country. It is completely absurd, it is completely uneconomical, because it is the airport for Airbus," the chairman of the movement "Debout La France" (Stand-up France)  told i-Tele on Friday.
"It is high treason, it means that people who lead us no longer defend the French" the MP said, adding that he has fears of espionage on the "principal centre of the aviation industry. 

He wasn't the only politician to be furious at the government's move.

Even some within the ruling Socialist Party called for the sale to be halted.

"The opening up of the airports to private capital is a scandal comparable to the selling off of France's motorways by the right," said Socialist Party Senator Marie-Noëlle Lienemann.

Later she tweeted that: “Macron believes he is in Greece where the government sold ports to the Chinese to reduce deficits which continued to increase”.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, branded it as an outright sell-out of national interests.

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“Selling off strategic assets such as this airport to foreign investors is the opposite of politics supporting economic development in the long term and national independence,” she said in a statement.

“This is even more true for Toulouse where Airbus has its headquarters, requiring even more vigilance vis-à-vis all foreign investors in this sector.”

Airbus uses the Toulouse-Blagnac airport to test and assemble its planes.

Louise Nordström (news.france@thelocal.com)

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