Reading this article in the Financial Times, you'd be forgiven for not having the vaguest clue what they're talking about. It seems almost designed to obfuscate the talks on replacing the defunct EU Constitution:
Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, claimed to have dealt a blow to the "dogma" of competition after European Union leaders struck a deal on a new "reform treaty" in marathon talks that ended in the early hours of Saturday.
Mr Sarkozy said the new treaty opened the door for the creation of "European champions", after he secured the deletion of the words "undistorted competition" from the EU's objectives.
"The word "protection" is no longer taboo," he said. "Competition as an ideology, as a dogma, what has it done for Europe?"
Yeah -- what has competition done for Europe -- or anyone? Oh sure, some argue that competition leads to technological advances, breakthroughs in science, medicine, food cultivation, political ideology, and anything else you can think of, but how important are those? For example, remember all those years when the US and NATO competed against the USSR and Warsaw Pact? What did Europe get out of that?
Not much, apparently, because competition has been kicked overboard in the effort to bring Europe together:
The Brussels summit agreed the outline of a treaty to replace the Union's failed constitution, rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in referendums in 2005. Although stripped of its grand title and symbols of statehood like a flag and anthem, the new treaty contains many of the constitution's main ideas for making the enlarged EU more efficient and coherent on the world stage.
They include a full-time EU president, foreign minister and diplomatic service, a streamlined European Commission and more qualified majority voting. Angela Merkel, German chancellor and host of the summit, hopes the treaty will come into force by 2009...
But competition lawyers say the move will have legal effect, weakening the EU's ability to fight protectionism. Mr Sarkozy endorsed that view, saying it "might give a different jurisprudence to the Commission". He said a competition policy could emerge "that will favour the emergence of European champions".
Mr Sarkozy's previous incarnation as finance minister suggests he may have in mind state intervention to create Franco-French industrial mergers.
It wasn't all that long ago that conservatives and market advocates in the US were delighted with Sarkozy's election. How much things have changed in a few weeks. Now it seems that he wants to suppress competition in Europe, which is terrible news.
Fortunately for EU consumers at least, competition from the US, China, and other nations is much tougher to stifle. Thus the 'European Champions' ought to take a beating at the hands of more dynamic foreign firms. That won't help European workers of course, but the continued insistence of European governments on ignoring markets makes clear that that's not their goal, anyway.
Read McQ as well, who points out that the interested governments seem to have learned their lesson, and appear unwilling to submit this 'treaty' to popular votes. No use having the people ruin what their elites have decided is best for them. After all, we already know what they think.