Weekend media reports in France suggest that prime minister Dominique de Villepin has sought to placate trade unions by ruling out a full-scale privatization of electricity giant EDF.

Mr de Villepin’s comments come despite the ongoing furor over the merger between Suez and Gaz de France, which has incurred the wrath both of labor bodies in France and the EU in Brussels. Italian politicians are furious at what they see as a concerted effort by France to prevent the acquisition of Suez by Italy’s Enel.

The French government faces real hostility at home as the powerful trade union lobby has been vocal in its concerns over potential job losses at GdF. The prime minister has moved to calm such fears by advocating what has been termed ‘patriotisme economique’, whereby France strives to retain public control of its national industrial champions.

As a result, Mr de Villepin has seemingly discounted the idea of privatizing EDF fully (although it was partially floated last year). Nuclear generator Areva and state rail operator SNCF are among other ‘crown jewels’ that the government wishes to see remain under state control.

The French like them being in public ownership, for good reason, Mr de Villepin told le Parisien newspaper. This would therefore exclude an attempt to go down the path of privatization for these public services.