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EU regulations threaten future of Gdansk shipyard

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Gdansk shipyard, the birthplace of the anti-communist Solidarity movement, will have to be scaled back or face possible closure as the European Union turns the screw on illegal state aid to the Polish shipbuilding sector.

Neelie Kroes, the EU's competition commissioner, has given Polish authorities a month to reduce capacity at the shipyard or face having to repay the state aid.

Repayment of at least $71 million could close Gdansk and cost thousands of jobs, but Kroes says she wants to give Warsaw one last chance to avert closure.

Pawel Poncyliusz, the Polish government official responsible for shipyards, said, "That would mean bankruptcy. The yard doesn't have the resources to pay that kind of money."


The Gdansk yard has enormous symbolic importance for Poland and particularly for its conservative government, many of whose senior members cut their political teeth during the 1980 strikes that led to the creation of the Solidarity labor union and eventually the downfall of communism.

But the advent of market economics in 1989 left the yards in a difficult position, competing against efficient and often heavily subsidized yards in Asia. The yards have gone in and out of bankruptcy and in and out of private and government hands and are heavily in debt.

The government is now committed to privatizing all three yards.

"Poland's government cannot allow the Gdansk shipyard to fall," Poncyliusz said. "In addition to being a symbol, we want this to be a functioning shipyard."


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Source: the Financial Times

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