Google opens French HQ amidst European antitrust objections

French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined Google to cut the ribbon on its new Paris headquarters, even as the European Commission has the search giant under antitrust scrutiny.
Written by Matt Weinberger, Contributor on

It's almost funny: one day, Google is preparing to defend itself from an "abuse of dominance" complaint from the European Commission. And today, less than a week later, French President Nicolas Sarkozy himself appeared with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at the opening of Google's new Paris headquarters, extolling the search giant's American values.

Check out Google's European Public Policy blog if you don't believe me. President Sarkozy is quoted as rhetorically asking the room, “Why as President, do I make this symbolic move and come to Google? I love the United States, and its motto that everything is possible whatever your origins."

The new 10,000 square meter Google office isn't merely handling operations in France, as the search giant plans on using it as its nerve center for operations in Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

What's more, Google says that its investment in France goes beyond merely purchasing the refurbished 19th century Second Empire building - YouTube is working to collecting royalties for French music copyright associations, French publisher Hachette will start listing out-of-print works on Google Books, and Google has announced a partnership with French national research lab CNRS.

But perhaps most importantly, Google will be looking to hire French engineers and other professionals to populate its new European headquarters. And to help boost the local startup scene, Google has announced Startup Café, a tools and training program for entrepreneurs.

I do want to go back to that original point, though. I can't be the only one who finds it strange that the European Commission has Google on the hook for a provisional answer from its antitrust investigation by early January while, at the same time, President Sarkozy is singing the praises of Google's international growth.

In fairness, the president doesn't speak for the European Commission, and the commission doesn't speak for President Sarkozy. If Google can give France's economy a boost, it's easy to see why he would choose to appear at the grand opening.

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