"They are where the UK was in the late 1980s and early 1990s," says Hadley. "The Americans call it downsizing. The Germans have done it: it's now the turn of the French."

The way ahead for the French industry will be signalled by a landmark speech by Jospin on 21 June at Le Bourget at the end of the show. He will give a flavour of what is to come in a general statement to the inaugural session of the new Parliment on 19 June.

Privatisation plans for key companies such as Thomson-CSF, Aerospatiale and Air France came into question when the Socialists appeared to put them on hold.

Now the government must spell out details of its "ni-ni" (neither-nor) approach to the planned move of the companies to private ownership. During the election campaign, the Socialists said they favoured "neither new nationalisations nor new privatisations."

Prospects for the sale of Thomson-CSF, the richest prize up for grabs, seem bleaker following a bitter exchange of words between Europe's major players. Final bids for the company, privatisation of which was seen as a key to restructuring the European defence industry, will remain dormant for some time.

Source: Flight Daily News