Poland has agreed to a plan that will see its historic Szczecin and Gdynia shipyards sold by May next year.
This will allow the government to recover hundreds of millions of euros in state aid paid to the shipyards in the past few years.
The European Commission says this was illegal, because it was made to prop up the companies, not help them stand alone.
Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Competition said: “It is a solution that will maximise opportunities for viable economic activity to continue at those sites and even more important with good perspectives and good prospects for sustainable jobs there, putting an end to the disproportionate distortion of competition caused by the huge subsidies received by those shipyards in recent years.”
The government has said up to 60, 000 jobs could be at risk at the docks and in related sectors.
Unions have demanded a meeting with the government. They say the plan spells the end for the shipbuilding industry.
But the yards, the cradle of protests against communist rule, have not made a profit for at least four years and would not have survived without the subsidies.