Europe believed that the exemption was a form of illegal state subsidy for the ports and two years ago the European Commission demanded that it be stopped. The ports took the case to the European Court as scrapping the exemption would mean them being poorer to the tune of millions of euro.
However, the court has ruled against them, backing the European Commission’s assertion that ports should be considered to be businesses and treated accordingly.
Port of Antwerp says that ruling is “regrettable”
In an initial reaction to the European Court’s ruling the Port of Antwerp’s spokesman Gert Ickx told VRT News “Port of Antwerp tried to convince the court that it doesn’t function like typical company that in the main is involved in economic activity with profit as its main goal. Port of Antwerp wishes to above all offer added value and create work for the companies situated at the port. The Port of Antwerp’s profits are invested to a maximum in the port, its infrastructure and mobility and sustainable energy projects that benefit society”.
Previously The Netherlands was also forced to scrap its corporation tax exemption for sea ports. A number of Dutch ports went to the European Court when they found out that Belgian, French and German ports were also benefiting for state support in one form or another.