EU increases pressure on Italy regarding beach license tenders

ROME/BRUSSELS – The European Union raised pressure on Italy Thursday regarding the boosting of competition in beach clubs, with a court ruling and a warning by its executive body, European Commission.

The European Court of Justice said that beach licences for Italy’s 7,500 kilometres of coast (4,660 mile) must be subjected transparent and impartial bidding. In a decision, the EU Commission claimed vindication of its long-standing stance.

Sonya Gspodinova, a spokeswoman at the Commission, told reporters in Brussels that EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton had raised the topic of beach permits with Italian Premier Giorgia Melloi during his visit to Rome last week.

Gospodinova stated that Meloni had promised to ensure that Italian authorities would quickly implement European legislation. “This means national authorities will move forward with aligning their national legislation with European laws,” she said.

It is a family tradition in Italy to pass down the rights to rent sun loungers and umbrellas from one generation of entrepreneurs to the next. This is despite claims by rivals that they are being unfairly excluded from this major business.

Meloni’s government, which is nationalist, has delayed this by an extra year despite the fact that Italy’s top administrative tribunal also ruled in favor of competition.

A government source revealed to Reuters that it is considering a return to the original 2024 deadline. Italy risks hefty fines if they continue to violate EU rules for beach concessions.

Meloni’s coalition has argued that existing license holders, mainly Italians, should keep their concessions. They argue that opening the sector up to foreign competition could lead to higher prices and a trampling on local traditions.

However, the Luxembourg based ECJ ruled the licenses couldn’t be renewed automatically. It said that “the national courts and administrative authorities must apply the relevant EU law rules.”

Licenses are owned by the state but are rarely put up for auction. The government only raised 115 million euro ($125.96) in 2019 from the sale beach licenses. However, the industry itself is worth 15 billion euros per year, according to Nomisma’s study.

($1 = 0.9130 euros)

(Reporting and editing by Crispian Fenton and Susan Fenton; Giuseppe Fonte, Alvise Armellini and Marine Strauss)

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