Commission warns of likely sanctions

Greece could again be hauled before the European Court by the European Commission over aspects of its maritime transport policy, including efforts to limit the mandatory deregulation of the domestic passenger shipping routes and bypass the Commission as the ultimate authority on the issue, as well as its failure to protect the environment. While the deregulation of domestic shipping routes allows exceptions when a member state can prove that certain ports cannot be adequately served under free market conditions, Greece has included most of its island ports under this category. Moreover, the state has imposed restrictions on crew composition, which the EU has deemed illegal. «In the case of Greece, almost all its intra-island network of shipping services has been made subject to public service obligations, without evidence that there is a real public service need. The Commission also considers that Greek legislation on crews and the internal organization of ships disproportionately restricts the freedom operators should have over the way they provide their service to users,» the Commission said, giving Greece two months to apply the EU regulations or be taken to court. In a separate case, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to course, a step before referral to the European Court, «for disregarding the Commission’s exclusive external competence with regard to implementation of the Community’s common transport policy.» «The Commission takes the view that Greece has failed to fulfill its obligations by presenting a submission to the International Maritime Organization regarding the implementation of two international legal instruments on enhancing ship and port facility security which have been incorporated into Community law,» the Commission said. Over the past year, the Commission and the IMO have clashed over EU proposals regarding ship safety which the IMO considers too tough. Greek shippers have backed the IMO’s position. Waste reception In a third case, Greece has received a final warning by the Commission for not implementing the EU law on ship-generated waste reception and handling obligations in ports, including fishing ports and marinas. «It is important that all member states properly implement this legislation that enhances the protection of the maritime environment. Obligations both on masters of ships to deliver their waste and on member states to make facilities available to treat this waste must be respected,» said Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot, who is in charge of transport. The relevant directive was issued in 2000 and aims to reduce the discharges of waste and cargo residues into the sea from ships using ports in the EU by improving the availability and use of the facilities designed to receive and treat such waste and residues, enhancing the protection of the maritime environment. Greece’s case specifically refers to «the non-implementation of the obligation to develop, approve and implement waste reception and handling plans in all Greek ports.» The Commission also notes that these plans are a key element in ensuring that port reception facilities made available meet the needs of the ships normally using the ports, that their operation does not cause undue delay to ships and that fair, transparent and non-discriminatory fees are applied. In its reasoned opinion, the Commission says that member states should have adopted the directive and established waste reception and handling plans for all their ports by December 27, 2002.