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Poland Given Deadline To Stop Shipyard Subsidies

European Commission said Poland is exhausting its patience by continuing to subsidize ailing shipyards and has until June 26 to produce a credible restructuring plan.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Commission said Thursday that Poland is exhausting its patience by continuing to subsidize ailing shipyards and gave it until June 26 to produce a credible restructuring plan.

The EU executive began investigating the subsidies in June 2005, but must yet see a plan to guarantee the yards' viability and end subsidies that harm rivals, EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said.

The probe focuses on yards at Gdynia, Sczcecin and Gdansk.

The latter holds a significant place in Poland as the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union, which launched the nation's peaceful anti-communist revolt in the 1980s.

Last summer, Polish dockworkers protested outside the EU head office against closing two of the Gdansk yard's three slipways, saying that would put more than 1,000 workers -- a third of the work force -- out of work.

This week, the European Commission gave Poland until June 26 to provide details on the future of the Gdansk yard, in particular, said Todd.

If Warsaw ignores the request, the EU executive can order it to claim back from the yards all the subsidies they have received -- an order bound to run into hundreds of millions of euros (dollars).

Restructuring the three yards, EU officials said, means putting them under new, private ownership and reducing capacity by selling off assets that are not essential.

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