Commission Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, responsible for competition policy, recently decided to continue the 2004 Guidelines on State Aid to Maritime Transport without revision.
ECSA President Juan Riva welcomed Commissioner Almunia's decision: "ECSA commends the Commission for pursuing a professional review and consultation process, which clearly demonstrated that the guidelines were successful. In the Member States where they were applied, they have produced strong economic, employment and strategic-capability benefits for the EU."
The current guidelines were adopted in 2004 and were designed to reverse the worrying trend that started in the 1980s, whereby the proportion of world tonnage using EU flags declined dramatically. The guidelines have helped European shipowners counter international competition by open registers. More specifically, by providing the framework that permits the operation of EU Member States' tonnage tax regimes, they have promoted the use of European flags and maintained an overall competitive fleet on world markets.
Mr. Riva pointed out that: "The guidelines have enabled European shipping to withstand fierce and increasingly global competition in both direct and cross trades. With the continuation of the guidelines, European shipping will carry on boasting an internationally competitive framework."
The State aid guidelines provide certainty and stability for the industry without which European shipping companies would be placed at a serious commercial disadvantage to their competitors in the rest of the world. ECSA is confident that the continuation of the guidelines will allow European shipping to be on par with its global competitors. This will also be to the benefit of the wider maritime cluster and the EU economy.
Looking ahead, Mr. Riva added that: "As in the past, ECSA will actively monitor the application of the guidelines in different Member States. We look forward to discussing any outstanding issues of clarification with the services of the Commission."