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French fish fuel offer falls foul of fair play formality

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French fish fuel offer falls foul of fair play formality

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National help for fishermen is illegal, Brussels has told Paris. When French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week announced millions of euros in emergency aid was coming, fishermen on strike blocking ports and oil depots over heavy fuel costs cheered, but fair competition authorities at the European Commission warned ‘not so fast’.

A spokesperson in Brussels said: “Compensation that went to all enterprises and which amounted to operating assistance is out of line with community rules on state aid. Subsidies are not the way to react to the problem… It has to be through restructuring of the fisheries sector.”

In effect, this means ‘go and get more energy-efficient engines and equipment’. The protesters say the recent surge in diesel costs is just hanging them out to dry.