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Financial crash as significant as fall of Berlin Wall, says Schäuble

AFP/The Local · 22 Nov 2009, 12:26

Published: 22 Nov 2009 12:26 GMT+01:00

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“I am completely convinced that the financial crisis will change the world as much as the fall of the Wall,” the minister said in an interview with mass circulation weekly Bild am Sonntag.

“The balance of power between America, Asia and Europe is shifting dramatically. And the developments are nowhere near finished yet,” he added.

The economy was picking up again, the minister said, but it was vital that businesses could obtain the credit they need from banks.

In other comments, Schäuble said that the government was seeking clarity from General Motors on plans for Opel on the eve of a crunch meeting with top officials in Brussels.

“My position is totally clear. It is now down to General Motors to provide clarity on how they are going to live up to their corporate responsibilities,” Schäuble said.

“We’ve heard recently from Detroit that GM does not need any state aid for Opel. All I can say to that is: so much the better,” he added.

Germany is home to around 25,000 Opel workers, around half of the company's total European workforce.

GM stunned Berlin and the entire global auto world earlier this month when it pulled a handbrake turn on a deal that would have sold off Opel to a consortium of Canadian car parts maker Magna and Russia’s Sberbank.

Germany had sweetened this deal with several billion euros in aid as it believed it was the solution most likely to safeguard German jobs.

The US firm decided instead to retain its European division and restructure the unit itself. It has promised soon to reveal its precise plans for the company.

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However, according to Der Spiegel magazine, a bidding war has already broken out between European countries eager to secure jobs in their own countries.

According to Spiegel, GM Europe has received offers of €400 million from Britain and between €300 and €400 million from Spain, while Poland has offered tax breaks.

EU Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen hit out at what he called an auction, saying he found the offers “alarming.”

The commissioner is due to hold talks on Monday in Brussels with European economy ministers and representatives of GM to discuss the future of the US car maker’s European business.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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