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C 45/108 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 10. 2.

98

(98/C 45/135) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1822/97

by Jesús Cabezón Alonso (PSE) to the Commission

(28 May 1997)

Subject: Activities of publicly-owned Spanish shipyards

The Commission has informed the Spanish Government of its decision to extend the procedure concerning the
aid granted to publicly-owned shipyards (1).

Pending further information from the Spanish authorities, the Commission appears to accept that Astander
(Astilleros de Santander) should cease building new vessels and should maintain its activities of ‘repair and
conversions’.

What arguments has the Spanish Government put forward which would make it possible to prevent Astander
from continuing to carry out ‘conversions’?

Has the Commission taken any firm decision in this connection?

(1) OJ C 53, 22.2.1997, p. 3.

Joint answer
to Written Questions E-1820/97 and E-1822/97
given by Mr Van Miert on behalf of the Commission

(20 June 1997)

First, to avoid any possible misunderstandings, it should be explained that in deciding to extend the procedure
under Article 93.2 EC Treaty, the Commission was concerned about the adequacy of the capacity reductions in
the beneficiary public yards as the necessary counterpart for the very substantial amounts of aid proposed, a large
part of which was incompatible with the normal shipbuilding aid rules. It was within this context that the
Commission had expressed doubts whether the proposals for Astander could be considered a sufficient and
genuine capacity reduction, particularly since the yard had ceased new building in 1990 and would remain open
to conversions whereas normally conversions and newbuildings are treated together for the purposes of the
shipbuilding aid directive (both activities being eligible for contract-related production aid, unlike ship repair).

However, as the Honourable Member is probably aware, the procedure was subsequently overtaken when the
Spanish government presented revised proposals to address the Commission’s concerns (shared by many
Member States) that the possible distortions to competition should be minimised. Under the revised plan, in
addition to the cessation of newbuilding at Astander, a series of other measures (involving closure of installations
but not total closure of yards) will be taken with immediate effect to achieve an overall capacity reduction in the
public yards of 30,000 compensated gross registered tonnes (cgrt). This will be supplemented by the
non-reopening to shipbuilding of the public yard at Astano and by further capacity reductions in the private
sector amounting to 17,500 cgrt. The Spanish government has also agreed that Astander will not carry out ship
conversions as long as it remains in public ownership. Questions about the thinking behind the revised plan are a
matter for the Spanish authorities.

On this basis the Industry Council, at its meeting on 24 April 1997, agreed that Spain could be granted a
derogation from the rules of the shipbuilding aid directive. This derogation was formally adopted as a Council
Regulation on 2 June 1997 (1) leaving the way clear for the Commission to close the procedure and approve the
aid. A final Commission decision is expected shortly.

(1) OJ L 148, 6.6.1997.