SP’s message to Brussels: ‘Hands off our ports!’

21 January 2016

SP’s message to Brussels: ‘Hands off our ports!’

Foto: SP

SP Member of Parliament Farshad Bashir is furious over interference from Brussels in the taxation of Dutch port companies. The European Commission insists that the nationalised port companies of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Zeeland, Den Helder, Groningen and Moerdijk should pay corporation tax on their profits. By not doing so, the Commission argues, they represent unfair competition with ports in other countries. Bashir, SP spokesman on both taxation issues and water transport, points out that ‘this tax ruling dates back to the 1950s. Given that these are state-owned corporations, it makes sense to exempt them from taxation. If they now have to pay taxes, it will cost a lot of jobs.’

Bashir also notes that were Dutch ports to have to pay taxes they would be disadvantegd in relation to ports in other countries. ‘As things stand there is in no sense a level playing field,’ he says. ‘Dutch sea ports are at a disadvantage because in several other EU member states, sea ports receive state aid.’ Referring to the Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TEU), the standard measure of ships’ cargo carrying capacity, he points out that ‘the Netherlands currently misses out on a million TEUs in additional containers because ports abroad, operating more cheaply as a result of subsidies, get them. This would have serious consequences for employment.’

In 2014 Dutch sea ports employed some 284,000 people, a huge number out of a total population of just over 17 million, of whom around half are in the workforce or seeking employment. ‘We can’t accept any increase in unemployment at a time like this,’ says Bashir. ‘So the EU shouldn’t be interfering in this. We want to decide for ourselves how to run our ports. Also, it would make much more sense for ports in different member states to cooperate with each other instead of competing.’

Bashir is urging Finance Secretary Eric Wiebes to do all he can to resist the removal of this tax exemption.

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