Seasiders, the EU demands competition immediately: what happens with the beaches

Relations between Rome and Brussels may become more tense. The consequences on the territory

A pro-competition solution, which is able to close a story that has been dragging on for decades. The EU insists that the Italian government review, and quickly, its position on bathing concessions. The extension to 2024 of the status quo has already been rejected by the Council of State and Brussels is ready to send, within the next forty-eight hours, a reasoned opinion with a request to Italy to comply within two months with the rules imposed by the Bolkestein directive. The next step would be the referral to the EU Court of Justicewith all the related consequences.

The positions are quite clear, and difficult to reconcile. The EU Commission believes that all concessions must compete, breaking a regime of substantial monopoly by those who already own the spaces on the beaches, which are the property of the state property. The government, pushed by the demands of the forces of the majority, led by the Lega, instead maintains that the position of many small Italian family businesses must be defended. In between, together with the basic principle of competition, there are also the overall relations between Rome and Brussels.

With the revision of the Pnrr targets at stake, with the discussion on the new budget rules still to be done, with the failure to ratify the reform of the Mes, the seaside concessions are a particularly bumpy terrain at this stage.

Also because the uncertainty that inevitably accompanies the limbo we find ourselves in ends up fueling situations of profound discomfort in the area for everyone, local administrations, operators and users. The case of the rapid seizures on the coast of San Felice Circeo, in the province of Latina, due to discrepancies between the concessions and the real state of the establishments, are the indicator of a situation often beyond the bounds of legality which signals the short circuit between the laxity of decades and the need to quickly find a point of contact with the law.

In this context, the indiscretions leaking from Brussels find perfectly opposing interpretations between the majority and the opposition.

“We want to guarantee bathers who want to continue working in a bathhouse that they have been managing for many years that they can continue to do so”, repeats the Minister of Infrastructure Matthew Salvini. “If someone is tired and doesn’t feel like it anymore – added the leader of the League – it is right that they ask for compensation for all the investments made on that beach. If one feels like it and wants to go on, perhaps with the his children or his grandchildren, he must be able to do it. Because it cannot be valid only the economic criterion that leads you to the first multinational on duty to appropriate the beaches. I personally am also working on a mapping of the Italian beaches and coasts to guarantee those who work from long time at the beach to keep doing it”.

The secretary of Più Europa Riccardo Magi expresses a diametrically opposite position. “Italy risks being referred to the EU Court of Justice for the extension of beach concessions, after 28 months of infringement proceedings. This is how much government propaganda and the defense of a lobby cost to the detriment of the efficiency of services, the well-being of citizens, and the pockets of Italians, who will be forced to pay for the anti-competition choices of the government, concerned with defending the interests of few rather than the good of all”.

The opening of the season is now very close and the fate of the beaches remains closely linked to the decisions of the government and, consequently, those of the EU Commission. A clash in the open field risks doing damage to everyone, including those who defend the acquired right to concessions. (Of Fabio Insenga)