EU subsidy decision shatters shipbuilders

EU subsidy decision shatters shipbuilders
The European Commission believes Spain's subsidies to its shipbuilding industry gave the sector an unfair advantage over its rivals. File photo: Daniel Ramirez
Billions of euros in state subsidies received by Spanish shipyards must be repaid, the European Commission decided on Wednesday in a move industry players fear could sink the massive sector.

State aid received by Spanish shipyards between 2007 and 2011 must be repaid, the European Commission has decided, according to a European Union source talking to AFP.

The Commission believes the subsidies gave Spain's shipbuilding industry an unfair advantage over its rivals. 

The 2007 start date represents a softening of demands compared to an earlier 2005 start date for state aid to be repaid, which had amounted to some €3.0 billion (almost $4.0 billion).

The Commission hasn't revealed the sum to be repaid, according to Spain's El Mundo newspaper.

Spain's industry minister last week said the amount in question could be higher than €2 billion, although that figure was based on a 2005 cut-off date.

Brussels has said Spanish authorities will have to calculate the money to be paid back, said the Spanish daily.

Shipyard owners, meanwhile, still say the demand will crush the sector completely in Spain.

How the EU's competition authorities address the case is being watched keenly by the industry in The Netherlands, France, Greece and Malta, the owners' industry body Pymar also said referring to an ongoing EU competition investigation into state aid there.

The association said on Tuesday that the new Commission plan was "absolutely insufficient," claiming that "the effects on the sector would be the same as under previous proposals — the disappearance of Spain's shipyards."

Representing 19 yards, Pymar said that "the end" of the private shipbuilding industry in Spain would mean the loss of 87,000 jobs.

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