The European Commission joined EU shipping industry experts to present 30-point action plan to boost the competitiveness of European shipyards. Their report focuses in particular on increased research and development spending as a way to help Europeís shipping sector combat alleged unfair state aid in other parts of the world. The European shipbuilding industry is showing only weak signs of recovery after the global economic turndown, and European firms are allegedly disadvantaged by the low prices offered by Far East competitors, notably South Korea.
Improved access to finance for business and lower regulatory burden form a key part of the strategy to support the Ä34 billion European shipbuilding industry. Also included in the recommendations is the possibility of establishing an EU wide guarantee fund operated under Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) principles. Announcing the plan, EU Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, argued that such investment measures would not breech EU rules on state aid. The European Investment Bank would also play a "significant role" in the funding process by providing banking guarantees within an EU framework.
The high level group that drafted the proposal was made up of MEPs, trade unions, shipping industry chiefs and seven commissioners. It was set up in January 2003 to examine questions of competitiveness in trade, research, financing, maritime safety, naval shipbuilding, intellectual property rights, skills and industry structure. The European Commission will present a communication based on the recommendations in two weeks time, and the findings will also be discussed by the European Council in November.