On the quay of the billionaires in Antibes, the sound of summer is the sound of champagne glasses heard from the board of luxury yachts moored off the French Riviera. In August, the largest, most expensive and luxurious yachts in the world tended to gather on the Côte d'Azur. This summer, however, the marina for the super-rich is unusually quiet and sadly witnessed by the locals.
Part of the high costs are due to France's strict compliance with EU rules on the sale price of marine diesel and a new law passed by the government of President Macron in March, which equates the crew of a yacht that has been in France for more than three months to citizens and obliges the owner to pay taxes and social contributions under the laws of the French Republic.
While the luxury marinas are empty, there is growing concern among local authorities and businesses. Against this backdrop, three of the Riviera's most influential politicians - President Renaud Musellier of the region, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi and Toulon Mayor Hubert Falco - have asked President Emmanuel Macron for help.
«The severity of the economic situation of the yachting sector in the Provence-Alpes Riviera region makes it necessary for us to call for your direct intervention»," said an open letter of politicians published in the media.
The EU is allowing Spain and Italy to undermine the Cote d'Azur's economy, the letter said. They call for a «speedy harmonization of tax and social norms at the European level».
«Refueling a 42-metre yacht in Italy compared to France saves about 21,000 euros per week due to the difference in taxes ... while the additional cost of maintaining a crew of seven people in France is 300,000 euros per year», - wrote French politicians.
«The British and Americans are sending their yachts for refueling to Italy or Spain, where the interpretation of European tax rules is different from the French»," comments Laurent Fallaise, head of the Riviera Yachting chain.
«The drop in harbour occupancy can be easily seen just by looking at a map showing where yachts are now in the western Mediterranean»," says Port Manager Woban in Antibes, Frank Don.
It added that the national insurance, medical and other mandatory contributions that boat owners pay for crew members have increased from 15 to 55 percent of their wages.
At stake are about 2,300 companies employing 9,600 people, with a direct turnover of 2.2 billion euros. There are 142 ports in the region, including Corsica, accommodating 66,570 vessels per year.