On 1 October 2020, Members of the European Parliament: Manuel Bompard, Manon Aubry, Leila Chaibi, Emmanuel Maurel, Younous Omarjee and Anne-Sophie Pelletier of The Left group in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“The tyre manufacturer Bridgestone announced on 16 September 2020 that it is going to close its factory in Béthune, the only one it has in France, making 863 employees redundant as a result.
For years now the Bridgestone Group has made the French site compete with its sites in Poland and Hungary. The Group says the French site is not competitive but this is because of chronic under-investment in the production tool.
The Group has benefited in particular from EUR 24.5 million in subsidies from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), EUR 24 million of this for a site in Poland, resulting in a serious distortion of competition. When will the Commission contact Bridgestone to demand repayment of all the subsidies granted via the ERDF?
For Bridgestone’s employees competition like this within the EU is not acceptable. What has the Commission planned in its work programme to put an end to situations where sites compete within the single market?
Furthermore, what action will the Commission take to facilitate employees taking over the site in the form of a cooperative and to help finance this operation with an amount at least equal to what Bridgestone has received for its other sites in Europe?”
On 25 January 2021, Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The Bridgestone plant in Béthune (France), benefited from European support of EUR 350 000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the period 2007-2013 to co-finance the creation of an extension aimed at increasing production. The company complied with regulatory requirements for the sustainability of operations.
On 4 September 2013, the Polish authorities submitted an application for confirmation of assistance from the ERDF for the project ‘Rozbudowa zakładu produkcji innowacyjnych opon i bieżników do recyclingu’ (completed in 2016), within the framework of the Operational Programme Innovative Economy.
The Commission approved financial support for the given project in 2014 on the basis of the relevant legal provision and the information provided in the application indicating explicitly that the Bridgestone productive investment would not create any net loss of jobs in any other Member State, nor transfer of jobs from other regions of the EU. The Polish authorities have recently confirmed this information, after obtaining explanations from the project beneficiary (Bridgestone Stargard sp.z o.o.).
As the Polish project was completed in 2016, it is difficult to establish a link between the announcement for the closure of the Béthune factory in 2020 and the EU decision granting support to the Polish project back in 2014. Therefore, the Commission does not have a sufficiently solid legal basis to request the repayment of the support from the funds granted to the Béthune plant.
The issue of relocation is one that the Commission will continue to pay particular attention. In this sense, provisions on business relocation have been strengthened in the legislation for the next financial period.”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/industry-lost-places-factory-1801661/