In the framework of this opinion a hearing (The European shipbuilding industry - dealing with the current crisis) was organized in Vigo, Spain on 1st December 2009.
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Gist of the opinion
The European Economic and Social Committee is very concerned at the profound crisis affecting the EU shipbuilding industry, characterised by a lack of new orders, major problems in financing existing orders, overcapacity and irreversible jobs losses.
As a result of the crisis, there is a need for a joint European strategy for the future of the EU shipbuilding industry and coordinated action by Member States. The first elements of this strategy should be defined and implemented no later than mid-2010 and should address the following:
- stimulating demand,
- ensuring employment measures and
- countering the absence of a level playing field.
In the absence of an international agreement at the OECD, however, the EU must take direct and decisive action to protect the European shipbuilding sector from unfair competition.
The Committee calls on the Council, the Commission and the Parliament to ensure that, as a matter of strategic priority, Europe seeks to maintain the critical mass that is required for shipbuilding and repair in Europe.
The Committee believes that, as in other sectors (e.g. automotive), Member States should pool their efforts to take joint action at European level with a view to enabling the sector to survive the crisis, with temporary short-term measures that take account of the sector's characteristics.
The EU must also address the problem of the long-term financing of the shipbuilding sector. To this end, a European financing instrument for shipbuilding should be set up with the EIB. Industry, policy-makers and the EIB must explore how to make EIB funds for the promotion of "green technologies" and clean transport available to the shipbuilding sector.
As regards employment policy in the sector, for the duration of the crisis in the sector, the public authorities must put in place common European frameworks for short-time working arrangements with a view to ensuring a level-playing field in Europe and protecting workers.
These frameworks must guarantee that jobs and purchasing power are maintained wherever possible, and ensure the right of all workers to access training and retraining.
The Committee recommends that during the crisis the social partners make special use of the opportunities for social dialogue with a view to drawing up joint strategies for the future. Social dialogue is a platform for joint ideas and solutions to tackle current and future challenges for the shipbuilding sector.