Listen to this article
This is an experimental feature. Give us your feedback. Thank you for your feedback.
What do you think?
Poland submitted new restructuring plans for three shipyards in Gdynia, Gdansk and Szczecin just hours before a midnight deadline, in the hope of staving off demands by Brussels for the return of state aid which is keeping them afloat.
Polish treasury ministry officials claimed on Wednesday that the new proposals addressed all the concerns raised by the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body.
In particular, they said the plans included cuts in production capacity and required significant investment by the proposed new owners of the yards.
In Brussels, however, the European Commission would only confirm that the restructuring plans had been received. Officials explained that the documents were in Polish and were still being studied.
The move came just hours before a deadline for delivering an acceptable package to the European Commission’s competition authorities expired. If the desparate scamble to save the yards fails, they will have to pay back over €1bn of past state aid, and certainly face closure.
Neelie Kroes, EU competition commissioner, met Poland’s treasury minister Aleksander Grad two weeks ago – when he proposed a joint restructuring of the Gdynia and Gdansk yards under the control of Ukranian-based ISD, which already owns Gdansk.
But the commissioner said she had “serious doubts” about the proposals being put forward and doubted that they met the Commission’s requirements for compliance under state aid rules.
The European Commission reiterated that it would assess the latest plans “in the framework of its inquiry under EU state aid rules”.In particular, it will want to know whether the plans can ensure the long-term profitability of the shipyards, and provide offsetting compensation to limit the distortion of competition caused by any aid provided. Brussels is also keen to see a large part of the financing package for the yards come from non-state sources.
The yards, which employ 15,000 workers, have been under scrutiny since the country joined the EU in 2004.