It was once a beacon to the world for resistance to communist excess, and the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union. Now the Gdansk shipyard is in crisis, and is submitting a last-ditch rescue plan to the EU for approval. The Polish government faces an election in less than three months, and closing the yard would be a political disaster. But the EU wants it to cut capacity or it will demand it repays state subsidies that will force it into bankruptcy.
“What the Commission wants to see is not a closed Gdansk shipyard, but a genuine, far-reaching restructuring of a company that would ensure its long-term viability”, said its spokeswoman on Tuesday.
Even today the shipyard gate is a sort of shrine to Poland’s twin liberators, Pope John Paul the second, and the union founded by Lech Walesa: “Yes I feel bad, it is my personal defeat, the fact that the Shipyard which was the mother of our victories, has been left to its fate”, said the former Polish president.
Two companies, one Ukrainian, the other Italian, are in the running to take a majority stake when the yard is privatised. It is all a far cry from Gdansk’s status 25 years ago, when the Solidarity trade union emerged there that would go on to have 10 million memebers and hasten the end of the Soviet Union.