eKathimerini/AFP — Greece’s top shipping lobby on Friday warned that European Union scrutiny of their tax concessions would open a “Pandora’s box” of revelations concerning other states, with harmful consequences all around.
“If we enter a full investigation and consultation begins… on what happens in European shipping, it would open a Pandora’s box, not for Greece but for other countries,” Theodore Veniamis, head of the Greek union of shipowners, told a news conference on the closing day of the Posidonia 2016 exhibition.
Back in 2012, the European Commission asked Greece to clarify the workings of its tax system for the shipping industry, and European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc told reporters on Friday it would likely become a full investigation.
“Tonnage tax is crucial to keep the EU flag competitive internationally,” said Bulc.
The Commission wanted to ensure “proper application of guidelines” and to “limit it to genuine shipping business,” she said.
Brussels suspects the current taxation system, which grants favourable treatment to shipowners, is being extended to also benefit shipping company shareholders and brokers.
Veniamis said the EU was drawing the “wrong conclusions” and could “unsettle” the shipowners’ presence in Greece.
“There is no competition kink between European maritime nations,” he said. “We haven’t seen any European shipowners coming to Greece’s (presumed tax) paradise.”