EU taps France, others to recoup wasted farm aid

27th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, July 27, 2006 (AFP) - The European Commission on Thursday ordered seven European Union (EU) countries to pay back about EUR 160 million of misspent EU farm aid, with France the biggest offender.

BRUSSELS, July 27, 2006 (AFP) - The European Commission on Thursday ordered seven European Union (EU) countries to pay back about EUR 160 million of misspent EU farm aid, with France the biggest offender.

French authorities, long the fiercest critics of attempts to reform the EU'S generous agricultural subsidy system, will have to repay about EUR 86 million, mostly handed out for ineligible land.

"This is a vital process in ensuring that taxpayers money is used properly and that all unduly spent amounts are recovered," said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

"The money will be recovered because of inadequate control procedures or non-compliance with EU rules on agricultural expenditure," added the EU's executive arm.

The 25-nation bloc's Common Agricultural Policy has long been criticized for sustaining loss-making farms at EU taxpayers' expense, despite reforms in recent years.

French President Jacques Chirac in particular resisted pressure for an even wider shake-up in the system during a mega-haggle on the bloc's next medium-term budget plans last year.

Under Thursday's EU commission decision, out of a total of EUR 161.9 million reclaimed, Spain will have to hand back 33 million; Italy 9 million and Greece 8 million. Portugal, Ireland Britain also have to pay back smaller sums.

The EU executive underlined that the repayments were not due to corruption or fraud, but simply for not following the rules under which aid is allowed to be paid out.

"(EU) member states are responsible for paying out and checking expenditure under the CAP, and the Commission is required to ensure that Member States have made correct use of the funds," said Fischer Boel.

"We have made enormous progress over recent years in improving controls and I am determined that these efforts will continue in the future," she added.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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