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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007, 15:26 GMT
Go-ahead for sale of Gdansk dock
Worker at the Gdansk shipyard
The Gdansk shipyard now employs 3,000 people
Polish competition authorities have cleared the way for the country's iconic, but struggling, Gdansk shipyard to be bought by Ukrainian firm Donbass.

Donbass first said in September that it aimed to buy 75% of Gdansk for 400m zlotys ($161m; 76m), before later adding that it wanted the full 100%.

The Ukrainian firm has also said it will repay state aid given to the yard.

The financial support received by Gdansk has caused a continuing row between Warsaw and the European Union.

Anti-communist vanguard

Under EU competition rules, a member government cannot use state aid to give struggling companies an unfair market advantage, unless it is accompanied by extensive cost-cutting to restore long-term viability.

Lech Walesa in Gdansk, 1983
Solidarity's struggle helped inspire numerous anti-Soviet movements

Since the summer, Brussels has been telling Warsaw either to close two of Gdansk's three slipways to reduce capacity or else to repay 51m euros ($75m; 36m) of European aid.

If Donbass repays this money, it will be able to keep Gdansk fully open.

The shipyard has an important place in Polish history, as it is the birth place of the celebrated Solidarity trade union.

Back in 1980, a strike by 17,000 ship builders at Gdansk saw Solidarity recognised as the first non-communist trade union in the then Soviet-dominated eastern bloc.

The move was one of the first successful steps that led to the eventual collapse of communism, not just in Poland but Eastern Europe as a whole.

Under communism, Gdansk could count on regular work from the Soviet Union, but it has struggled to compete in the post-communist free market and now employs 3,000 people.

Becuase of the historical importance of the Gdansk shipyard, the Polish government was keen to find a buyer that could maintain its existing capacity.

Solidarity founder Lech Walesa said earlier this year that he would consider it a "personal failure" if the Gdansk shipyard was not saved.

Poland fights for Gdansk shipyard
21 Aug 07 |  Business
Poland hails birth of 'freedom'
31 Aug 05 |  Europe
Analysis: Solidarity's legacy
12 Aug 05 |  Europe

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