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IP/08/1535

Brussels, 16 October 2008

Harbour dues: Commission initiates proceedings against Spain before the Court of Justice

Today the European Commission decided to initiate court proceedings against Spain for the discriminatory harbour dues laid down by Spanish legislation in breach of Community law.

The Commission found that the harbour dues charged on vessels sailing to or from the Canary Islands, the Balearics or Ceuta and Melilla are lower than those levied on traffic between ports on the Spanish mainland and ports elsewhere in the Community.

Furthermore, dues for vessels sailing between Spanish ports and non-EU ports are not subsidised under Spanish law and are therefore higher than those charged for traffic between Spain and other EU Member States.

In principle, this breaches Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86[1], which applies the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport between Member States and between Member States and third countries. Such discrimination can be justified only on the basis of overriding reasons relating to the public interest.

On this basis, Spain defended its action on the grounds of territorial cohesion. It failed, however, to demonstrate that its subsidies are necessary and proportionate, particularly in light of the compensation already in place for public service obligations for the areas in question.


[1] Council Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86 of 22 December 1986 applying the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport between Member States and between Member States and third countries.


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