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Brussels, 21 October 1997

Commission condemns Italian port policy

On 21 October the Commission, on Mr Van Miert's initiative, adopted two decisions declaring illegal (i) the monopoly on the supply of temporary workers - condemned by the European Court of Justice in 1991 - which is still enjoyed by Italian dockers' organisations, and (ii) the system - which the Court condemned in 1994 - whereby two public shipping companies (Tirrenia di Navigazione and Italia di Navigazione) are granted discounts which discriminate against the other ferry companies operating from the port of Genoa. The Italian authorities are required to put a stop to these two breaches of Community law and to inform the Commission within two months of any measures taken to this end.

The first decision, which concerns the reform of port law, calls for an end to the port authorities' monopoly on the supply of temporary workers. This system, under which the right to carry out harbour operations is the prerogative of certain dockers' organisations, was condemned by the Court of Justice back in 1991.

Despite having received a first letter of notice from the Commission, Italy has liberalised this market to a limited degree only. Although, under the reformed law, independent companies which meet certain objective criteria will be authorised to carry out harbour operations, the former dockers' organisations will retain the substantial privilege of supplying temporary workers, which amounts to an unfair competitive advantage. The Commission has used its power to take a decision after noting that, six years on from the Court's decision, the dockers continue to enjoy privileges which run counter to the general interest and hamper the economic development of Italian ports.

In the second decision, the Commission calls on Italy to abolish the system of discriminatory discounts on pilotage fees in the port of Genoa.

This system, which was condemned by the Court in 1994, favours the two national public shipping companies at the expense of the other ferry companies plying from the port of Genoa. Italy has changed the fees in question twice, while maintaining their discriminatory nature. The purpose of the Commission's decision is to ensure that the various companies concerned enjoy equal treatment with respect to services provided by pilots.

The Commission firmly hopes that the two decisions will help to provide fresh impetus for more extensive liberalisation of Italian ports, in the interests of companies and individuals alike.

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