The last time we had a conflict between Spain and Holland was not the 8 years’ war against Philipp II. There is another ongoing conflict with different weapons. By the end of 2012, two Spanish marine organizations complained to the European Commission denouncing the Dutch tax leasing schemes for vessels. According to what the Spanish organizations have assured last June, when a Press Release was made public stating that following some explanations given to the European Commission this case is still being investigated; the Dutch shipyards are taking advantage of a particular set of fiscal measures in order to give state aids in transactions for financing the building and acquisition of vessels. This is, the Spaniards say, unfair competition and it is destroying European jobs.
Evidently that, in order to rule fairly over this case, the European Commission should have as much information as it can, but since the complaint was made in 2012, the Spanish shipbuilding sector, which employs directly and indirectly more than 87 000 families, has suffered heavy and economic job losses. Taking advantage of that, the Dutch shipyards have been illegitimately preventing the Spanish shipyards from following their interests as they have emerged as Spain´s strongest competitor, as their order books and billings have grown exponentially.
In practice, the Commission has failed to launch a single official investigation procedure while the Dutch shipbuilding industry continues to benefit from the opposed system and strengthen its competitive advantage over dockyards in other Member States. As European counterparts are being severely damaged as a result of that, the European shipbuilding market is losing its competitiveness, especially to the emergent Asian markets.
One of the key aspects of competition disputes regards the formal aspects according to which arbitrary institutions take their decisions. If we focus on the procedure length for instance, rapid resolutions rebound in fewer consequences for both the complainant and the defendant, which should be one of the arbitrator´s main goals. However, this does not seem to be in the mind of the European Commission´s Directorate General in charge of Competition´s in one particular process, so far handled in a lengthy and insufficiently diligent way.
This approach by the DG COMP has produced an unclear framework, where severely adjustments were already put in place. In the fragile situation of the Spanish and European economies, where big sacrifices were and continue to be asked to the their populations, if the European Commission which does not attaches great importance to European competitiveness in the shipbuilding sector, how will it help the by-all-desired economic revival over and over preached?