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European steel chiefs were this week embroiled in a flaming row with the European Commission.Crunch talks on how to restructure the steel industry planned for this week were overshadowed by a leak that 17 top steel producers were to be fined for running a cartel in structural steel beams.While keeping tight-lipped publicly, industry chiefs were understood to be fuming at the timing of the leak, on the eve of talks to try to cut overcapacity in the European steel industry.They are thought to believe that the move was designed to take the heat off commission officials for failing to come up with a coherent proposal.The threat of fines has been hanging over the firms since 1991 when commission officials raided offices across Europe.And in 1992 the commission accused British Steel and other European producers of operating a cartel in steel beams.The steel firms believe the accusations by the cartel busting DGIV are totally unfair. It is widely understood that quotas were encouraged by the industry directorate DGIII to ensure the well-being of the industry through the crisis it faced in the early 1980s.And it is now highly likely that the steel firms will resort to legal action against the commission to settle the matter. CONSTRUCTION NEWS