At an Extraordinary General Assembly meeting held this week, the Union of Greek Shipowners unanimously approved the proposal of President, Mr. Theodore Veniamis, and its Board of Directors, to extend the duration of the Memorandum of Understanding of the Voluntary Contribution between the shipping community and the Hellenic Republic for one more year, i.e. 2018, to contribute to the achievement of the desired fiscal targets.
The Memorandum of Understanding was an initiative of the Union of Greek Shipowners, to which the Greek shipping community, in its vast majority, responded positively.
In addition, Greek shipowners were briefed about the course of the negotiations in the pending case of the informal investigation of the Greek shipping institutional framework by the Directorate – General for Competition of the European Commission.
UGS President, Mr. Theodore Veniamis was optimistic that a mutually acceptable agreement between the Greek state and the European Commission will soon be reached on the issue.
Meanwhile, in its 82nd annual report, the Greek Shipping Co-Operation Committee warned the European Union not to push for the additional burdening of the Greek shipping industry with taxes.
GSCC chairman Haralambos Fafalios said:
“It is imperative for Greece and for Europe itself, that no changes are made to the existing tried and tested legislation. The Greek Shipping Industry already pays substantial tonnage taxes, amongst the highest in Europe and thus, should not be burdened any further. It is also not a beneficiary of some of the largesse that some other countries offer their owners. We strongly urge the Greek Government to realize the significance of this sector and support it against an onslaught of foreign pressure”.
The so called London Greeks, expressed their full backing to the Athens-based Union of Shipowners in its defense of Greek shipping interests. “We wholeheartedly support the position the U.G.S. has taken and feel that any attack on the Greek shipping Industry will only weaken Europe itself as a trading partner, and make its goods uncompetitive in a global market” Fafalios stated.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble recently accused the Greek shipping sector of going largely untaxed even though Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed to make them pay upon coming to power in 2015.
Theodore Veniamis responded by pointing out that Greek-controlled shipping comprises half of the EU’s shipping sector, “a first-place showing that possibly bothers some.”
“The question that arises is whether the failure of Germany’s shipping policy, which despite favorable terms on every level – ownership, management, professionals – wasn’t able to support the country’s sector, is the motive that prompted the minister (Schaeuble) to make these statements?” he asked.
“Mr. Schaeuble, pointedly overlooking the especially favorable regime governing German shipping, is turning with his statements against Greek shipping, which also happens to represent 50 pct of Community shipping” said Veniamis.
Greek Minister of Shipping Panagiotis Kourouplis also reacted, saying that the German finance minister “looks for reasons to put further burden on Greece and now he remembered the ship owners’ taxation story.”
Shipowners signed the voluntary agreement in July 2013 with the country’s then Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and it was amended in July 2014, to be formalised and turned into official state law. The agreement expired earlier this year, but the owners decided to keep contributing to the finances of the State.
Under the agreement the UGS committed to contributing an extra 420 million euros in a one-off arrangement – in addition to tonnage tax – which run through the period 2014 up to the first quarter of 2017. Each year, shipping committed to contribute at least 105 million euros, via a voluntary levy imposed on companies based in Greece regardless of the flag state they are using./ΙΒΝΑ