Brussels leaves ports out of new work programme
The European Commission has not included state aid guidelines for ports in its new work programme, leaving the industry more confused than ever about the future of the long-awaited text.
Commission officials have given mixed messages about the fate of the guidelines, which were expected to clear up contentious issues such as whether governments can subsidise the dredging of port approach channels.
Promised by the Brussels executive since the 1970s, the guidelines are understood to have been written on more than one occasion but have never completed the internal commission consultation process.
There have been reports in recent weeks that a final text was again close to completion, though the lack of mention in the work programme would indicate otherwise.
European Sea Ports Organisation secretary general Patrick Verhoeven said he believed the final decision on guidelines will be taken by the directorate-general for competition (DG Comp). Until now, the directorate-general for transport has been leading the exercise.
?Different people in the commission say different things about the guidelines, but we think we know now that this will fall under DG Comp,? Mr Verhoeven said.
The commission directorate-general for transport, now DG Move, promised to publish the guidelines last year but DG Comp is said to have refused to authorise a sector-specific text.
The Brussels transport commissioner Siim Kallas said he had ?no information? about the guidelines during his hearing before the European parliament earlier this year.
Separately, and possibly of relevance to ports, the commission is set to clarify rules for concessions, the work programme indicates. The clarification, which will be ?horizontal? and therefore not specific to any industry, could shed light on whether port terminal concessions can be renewed after they expire.