Written by Ivana Katsarova and Marketa Pape (6th edition)

© Unclesam / Fotolia

Serving as access points to Europe, the European Union’s approximately 1 200 seaports are crucial both for its transport sector and its competitiveness. They also have significant potential for creating jobs and attracting investors.

The European Commission plans to redress the huge disparities in performance levels by modernising the port services offered by the EU’s 329 main seaports. The reform is aimed at eliminating unfair competition, guaranteeing a level playing field and improving the commercial efficiency of ports. Two previous attempts to liberalise port services (in 2001 and 2004) provoked controversy, particularly regarding their social/labour market aspects, and were rejected by the European Parliament.

The latest initiative combines a legislative and a ‘soft’ approach. The previously contentious cargo handling and passenger services will not be opened up to the market through legislation. Instead, the Commission is focusing on establishing a clear framework for market access to port services and common rules on the transparency of public funding for ports and the charges for users. The ‘soft’ approach comprises an action plan and the launch of sectoral social dialogue.


Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework on market access to port services and financial transparency of ports
Committee responsible:


Transport and Tourism (TRAN)

Knut Fleckenstein (S&D, Germany)

COM(2013)0296 of 23.05.2013

procedure ref.:2013/0157(COD)

Ordinary legislative procedure

Procedure completed Regulation (EU) 2017/352
OJ L 57, 3.3.2017, p. 1


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