The European Commission held today a public hearing for port stakeholder organisations and Member State experts, which formally closes the review process on EU ports policy that Commissioner Kallas initiated in autumn 2011.
“The review was a good idea since the current EU framework for ports already dates from 2007”, said ESPO Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven. “We nevertheless think that this framework, which is based on non-legislative measures and instruments, still forms a good basis for action.”
“The Commission however seems to imply that the 2007 approach did not work.”, added Patrick Verhoeven, “We would rather argue that it has not been given a proper chance. The failure to produce State aid guidelines for ports is but one example. Despite a unanimous demand from the sector and a formal promise from the Commission, these guidelines have not materialised yet.”
ESPO generally believes that the Commission hasn’t made a convincing case why new legislation on ports would be necessary. The initial results of the stakeholder surveys that were held as part of the consultation process point on the contrary at a high degree of satisfaction with the performance of European ports.
“We in any case fail to understand why issues like separation of statutory and commercial activities of port authorities, calculation of port dues and coordination of public investments are highlighted as major regulatory challenges”, concluded Patrick Verhoeven, “We invite the Commission to remain proportional. Enhanced legal certainty through guidance, combined with case-led action where manifest problems exist, can significantly help us forward. In addition, the Commission should stimulate industry best practice and self-regulation.”
ESPO will issue a full written statement next week. The review process is expected to lead to a new ports policy communication of the Commission, which may be accompanied by a legislative proposal. This should become clear by summer this year.