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Merkel vows a ‘tough fight’ with Brussels over Lufthansa rescue

BERLIN — Germany’s Lufthansa bailout is putting Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager on a collision course.
After weeks of back and forth over the terms of a €9 billion rescue for Lufthansa that includes a 20 percent ownership stake for the German government, the flag carrier said Wednesday it could not accept conditions imposed by the EU’s competition department.
The Continent’s second-largest airline felt Brussels’ demands “would lead to a weakening” of its core Frankfurt and Munich hubs by forcing it to relinquish prized landing slots, it said in a statement.
“We won’t allow that to happen,” Merkel is reported to have told her party colleagues earlier this week in response to suggestions the Commission would play tough.
Merkel is said to have pledged a “tough fight” should EU officials, principally Vestager, try to water down Lufthansa’s position in the European aviation market to get the deal through.
The new rules allow the European Commission to demand concessions “to preserve effective competition,” when the public money top-up is greater than €250 million.
Lufthansa’s decision to delay its approval of the rescue tees up a conflict between the two over how far Brussels should drag on German economic policy in what Merkel has called the worst crisis since the close of World War II.
Even before t
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