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Brussels, 19 December 2005

Maritime cabotage: the European Commission asks Portugal and Greece to apply the rules

The Commission has decided to refer Portugal to the Court of Justice and to send a reasoned opinion to Greece for failing to comply with European maritime cabotage rules.

The Regulation which has been infringed[1] applies the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport within Member States. Under this Regulation Member States are in principle obliged to let the parties concerned operate freely in this type of market. Exceptions to this principle may be allowed only if market forces would not result in a satisfactory level of service, owing to special circumstances.

However, Portuguese legislation makes all shipping services to the islands subject to public service regimes by reserving these services for those operators which meet requirements specified in decisions taken by the public authority or in public service contracts concluded with it. There is nothing to justify such an exemption from the principle laid down in the European Regulation.

In the case of Greece, almost all its intra-island network of shipping services has been made subject to public service obligations, without evidence that there is a real public service need. The Commission also considers that Greek legislation on crews and the internal organisation of ships disproportionately restricts the freedom operators should have over the way they provide their service to users.

[1] Council Regulation (EEC) No 3577/92 of 7 December 1992 applying the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport within Member States (maritime cabotage), OJ L 364, 12.12.1992.

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