The Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) today responded to the European Commission’s recently published allegations claiming that some provisions of the Greek shipping taxation regime are in breach of EU state aid provisions.
The UGS said that “there is no effective distortion of competition in the maritime field in the EU and that any fundamental changes to the institutional and fiscal framework in which the Greek shipping community is presently operating, would have unforeseeable consequences which would be detrimental not only for Greece but also for the rest of the EU as they would seriously undermine one of its most important strategic sectors which remains prominent internationally in the face of fierce competition”.
The UGS pointed out that the Greek institutional shipping regime predates the EC’s state aid guidelines (SAG) by many years. In particular, the Greek institutional framework for shipping taxation and especially the Greek model of tonnage tax for ships was introduced in 1953 and re-established in 1975 and became “more or less” the precedent for the development of the SAG and of regimes in the EU and internationally, UGS claimed.
“The decision of the European Commission regarding the Greek shipping taxation system and its statement that it will be used as a precedent for the assessment of other EU shipping regimes will seriously disrupt the shipping sector in the EU after 20 years of successful growth without formal complaints and negligible intra-EU reflagging or re-establishment of shipping companies,” UGS maintained.
The shipowners body urged the European Commission to focus on the strategic, commercial and international dimension of the EU shipping industry in its diversity and its potential mobility, rather than concentrate on the nominal or juridical aspects of compliance with the letter of the SAG within the EU. Otherwise, UGS warned, the commission will undermine the confidence of shipping entrepreneurs and may encourage relocation of companies outside Europe.