“The division of labor should be dictated by economics, not politics,” Francois Heisbourg, special adviser at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research and a former aerospace executive, told Reuters last month.
“Toulouse is a high-tech aerospace cluster, the largest and most competent in Europe. You don’t simply decree that it all has to move to Germany.”
It was against this tense backdrop that Enders took the reins of EADS and began serious merger planning in June.
One of his first acts was to move the company’s headquarters to Toulouse, ending the awkward split between Paris and Munich that had existed for more than a decade.
The step was symbolic - a sign to investors that EADS had overcome national divisions and was operating like a normal company. Apart from his L-shaped office, strewn with souvenirs of Airbus’s global market conquests, the spartan white premises where Enders set up shop remain mostly empty.
But in Berlin it was seen by many as confirmation that France was bent on taking de facto control of EADS, aided and abetted by a CEO who was placing the company above national loyalties.
Also gnawing at the Germans was the fact they had been outmaneuvered by France in previous cross-border endeavors.
Back in 1999, the merger of Hoechst and Rhone-Poulenc to form Franco-German drugs giant Aventis was hailed as a model of European cooperation. Underlining the point, some of the firm’s top managers were the children of French and German officers who had fought during World War Two.