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Italian beach space must be open to competition - ECJ ruling

People go for a dip in the clear waters of the Portoselvaggio cove,  in southern Italy's Puglia region, near Lecce, Friday April 20, 2007.
People go for a dip in the clear waters of the Portoselvaggio cove, in southern Italy's Puglia region, near Lecce, Friday April 20, 2007. Copyright IVAN TORTORELLA/AP
Copyright IVAN TORTORELLA/AP
By Euronews
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The licenses to rent out areas where sun loungers and beach umbrellas can be used are traditionally family-controlled and passed down from one generation to another.

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Italian beach licenses must be open to fair and transparent tender processes, according to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). 

A ruling by the EU's top court on Thursday said that the concessions granted by the government of Italy authorising the use of beach space throughout the country should not be renewed automatically, as is the case now, and instead be subject to an impartial selection procedure.

The licenses to rent out areas where sun loungers and beach umbrellas can be used are traditionally family-controlled and passed down from one generation to another, and were supposed to be put out for tender by 2024 until lawmakers delayed this.

The ECJ was deliberating on this after the Italian competition authority took the municipality of Ginosa to court. But now, with its ruling delivered, the sector is hoping to find a solution, as Marco Maurelli, President of Federbalneari Italia told Euronews.

"There are obviously some critical issues because if such an important component, which among other things is mainly family-run, were to stop tomorrow, we would have considerable economic difficulties, but also difficulties in organising the tourist system," Maurelli said.

"On this, I appeal to the Parliament and the Government, so that there are regulatory solutions and an organic reform of the sector."

According to the European Commission, the Italian system of concessions goes against the EU's Service Directive, which is designed to remove barriers to trade in services. Italy has already been warned about this in the past and an infringement procedure was even opened.

The issue is highly controversial in Italy and successive governments have failed to change the system. Brussels now hopes that the ruling will help improve the situation.

"Prime Minister [Giorgia Meloni] has guaranteed that Italian authorities will very quickly ensure the implementation of European legislation," Commission spokesperson Sonya Gospodinova said.

"So, it means that national authorities will proceed with aligning Italian legislation with European rules."

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