Apple, Competition, EDF, Esther Koplowitz, EU, EU Competition, EU subsidies, European Union, FCC, France, Hinkley Point, Ireland, Joaquín Almunia, Lillyhall, Miguel Boyer, nuclear industry, nuclear subsidies, nuclear waste, Proglio, ratepayer guarantees, Spain, state guarantees, Tax avoidance, tax breaks, tax holidays, UK, unfair business practices
Right after approving UK guarantees and ratepayer subsidies for 85% French government owned EDF to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley point in southwestern England, the EU commissioner for competition is going after Apple in Ireland.
The Financial Times spoke of “Concern as Almunia rushes EU competition cases out of door” (FT, Oct. 8, 2014) and Greenpeace legal adviser Andrea Carta pointedly stated on September 22nd that “If competition commissioner Almunia has backed State aid for Hinkley, it risks a backroom deal prevailing over the rule of law.”  This certainly sounds seedy, if true. One might even be forgiven for wondering if Almunia saying that the Hinkley subsidy was in violation of EU competition rules, only to change his mind, suggests a mafia-like shake-down.
In the end, Almunia, did not make the decision unilaterally, but he appears to have framed the vote ahead of time, which probably made it more likely to pass. Anyone who has dealt with committees knows that they tend to be subject to peer pressure and don’t like to go against their colleagues, even where their colleagues are wrong. It would be interesting to know which commissioners voted for the EDF-Hinkley subsidy and which voted against. One can guess that the Swedish commissioner voted for the nuclear subidies, considering that there is 100% Swedish government owned Vattenfall, which is abusing trade rules to sue Germany over its nuclear shut-down.
To make matters even more perplexing, EU commissioner for competition, Joaquín Almunia, is going after Apple’s tax rate in Ireland, as unfair competition! Now, we are all for Apple paying more taxes, but the EDF deal is a sort of subsidy, and Apple Ireland is about paying less taxes. The EDF deal is actually taking money from people and the Apple deal is about Apple not giving money. Even if they were the same, why the double standard?
Worse, EDF’s very existence as an almost totally French government owned company, which is an international player, back up by the French tax-payer, is unfair competition. It is even more unfair when the corporate state is willing to field an army to protect its interests, as France appears to have recently done, to protect its uranium mines in Africa (over 90% French government owned AREVA).
Perhaps law suits filed over the Hinkley deal will reveal the truth. Certainly people need to start asking what sort of conflicts of interest might the Commissioners have? In particular, why might Joaquín Almunia be pro-EDF, but anti-Apple and Ireland?
While we certainly cannot say what happened, we started wondering. Despite the name, Esther Koplowitz, majority owner of FCC environment (wholly owned subsidiary of FCC), is Spanish on her mother’s side. Not only is she Spanish but she is a Spanish Aristocrat, as is her sister Alicia. Joaquín Almunia is apparently of the Spanish Aristocracy, as well, going back to Carlos III, it seems. Carlos III was from the House of Bourbon which already gives them a tie to France.
Another connection would be Miguel Boyer, formerly Vice President of FCC Construction, part of FCC SA, who just died on Sept. 29th but was in the same political party as Almunia. Boyer and Almunia served for at least several years (ca 1982-1985) together in PM González’s Government.
The CEO of EDF, Henri Proglio, serves on the Board of Directors of FCC, since 2010.
FCC environment is the owner of the Lillyhall Landfill in Cumbria, through its purchase of Waste Recycling Group in 2006. Energy Solutions of Utah (also with nuclear waste facilities in Tennessee) is operating the nuclear aspects of the site: “Lillyhall, previously nuclear free, is now classed as a radioactive waste dump with emissions to land and air.” Read more here: https://mariannewildart.wordpress.com/category/lillyhall/ Energy Solutions is owned (Energy Capital Partners, II, LLC) and run (CEO of Energy Solutions) mostly by former Goldman Sachs investment bankers. Juan del Rivero, former CEO of Goldman Sachs for Spain for 23 years, manages the wealth of sister Alicia Koplowitz via Omega Capital. Goldman Sachs has acted as an advisor to both FCC and to Energy Solutions. Almunia, however, did fine Goldman Sachs recently.
But, it gets even more interesting! In late 2013 co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates bought a 6% stake in FCC. Furthermore, Bill Gates has come out as a major nuclear promoter. And, he is over 20% owner of some low level radioactive waste dumps in the US through Republic Services (which owns the Missouri waste dump which is on fire, and believed to represent a radiation danger).
And, do you think that Microsoft’s Bill Gates loves his long-time competitor Apple? We think not!
And, Ireland has no nuclear. The National Trust of Ireland, An Taisce is suing because Ireland should have been consulted about the proposed EDF Hinkley Plant, which is closer to Dublin than to London.
The Royal Bank of Scotland owns around 3.4% voting rights of FCC and was involved in recently refinancing the operations of FCC Environment for another 4 years. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fomento_de_Construcciones_y_Contratas
Don’t remember the Royal Bank of Scotland? They are the bank of the “Parcel of Rogues”! Not only did they threaten to leave Scotland for London if Scotland declared voted its independence, last month, but “The bank traces its origin to the Society of the Subscribed Equivalent Debt, which was set up by investors in the failed Company of Scotland to protect the compensation they received as part of the arrangements of the 1707 Acts of Union.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Royal_Bank_of_Scotland
Arthur Herman (2001), in “How the Scots Invented the Modern World” actually gives the amounts of the bribes. He states that the Marquis of Queensbury received 12,000 pounds; Lord Marchmont, 1,100 pounds; Campbell of Cessnock, 50 pounds; The Earl of Glasgow was given the Register’s Office for life and 1,200 pounds sterling per year. Many had their debts from the failed Darien scheme paid for. But, others were doubled-crossed and did not receive what they had been promised. (See, pp. 53-54).
From “Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation“, in Scots language:
“What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro’ many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station;
But English gold has been our bane –
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!
O would, ere I had seen the day
That Treason thus could sell us,
My auld grey head had lien in clay,
Wi’ Bruce and loyal Wallace!
But pith and power, till my last hour,
I’ll mak this declaration;
We’re bought and sold for English gold-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!” (Robert Burns, 1791) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Such_a_Parcel_of_Rogues_in_a_Nation
 According to Greenpeace:
“Comment on Almunia support for Hinkley nuclear plan
Press release – September 22, 2014
Brussels – Commenting on media reports of European competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia’s support for the approval of public funding for the construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta said: “If competition commissioner Almunia has backed State aid for Hinkley, it risks a backroom deal prevailing over the rule of law.”
Hinkley State aid stitch-up between competition commissioner Almunia and UK government would chain generations of taxpayers into subsidising outdated and risky nuclear power
“Only a year ago the Commission said that Hinkley was “in principle incompatible under EU State aid rules”. Now, under pressure from the UK government and French nuclear operator EDF, the Commission is preparing to perform a U-turn.
“European Commissioners should oppose the plan and resist rushing through a controversial and far-reaching decision in the dying days of this Commission.
“The Hinkley plan would lock two generations of UK taxpayers into subsiding outdated and risky nuclear power until almost 2060 at a time when increasingly cheaper renewables are re-writing the rules of energy systems around the world. This money would be better spent on genuinely clean technologies and more ambitious energy saving measures.” http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/en/News/2014/Comment-on-Almunia-support-for-Hinkley-nuclear-plan/
Description of the cartoon: “A new way to pay the national-debt / design’d by Helagabalis ; executed by Sejanus.
SUMMARY: Cartoon shows King George III and Queen Charlotte standing before the Treasury, moneybags under their arms, their pockets overflowing and bursting with coins (funds from the Treasury to cover Royal debts), William Pitt, his pockets full of coins, hands the king another moneybag taken from an overflowing wheelbarrow; the Prince of Wales (the future George IV) stands to the right looking destitute; a quad-amputee sits on the ground to the left with an overturned and empty hat between the stubs of his legs, which are fitted with prostheses.” Pubd. by Willm. Holland, 1786 April 21. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001695207/
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miguel_Boyer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miguel_Boyer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Spanish_Socialist_Workers’_Party_politicians http://www.huffingtonpost.es/enrique-baron-crespo/miguel-boyer-firmeza-y_b_5901274.html
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fomento_de_Construcciones_y_Contratas http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alicia_Koplowitz http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/apr/02/goldman-sachs-fined-brussels-cable-cartel
Note that some of the writings indicate some conflict between Miguel Boyer and Almunia when they were in government together. This seems to have been over economic policy, although it’s unclear.
There is no way to know if these ties matter. But, they are worth thinking about and examining. Esther Koplowitz and Commissioner Joaquin Almunia were among approximately 2,000 people invited to the reception for the new King and Queen of Spain last summer. Esther, her sister Alicia and Joaquin Almunia are on the list of the 500 most powerful Spaniards.