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Commission rapsBelgium again

Published on 05/02/2004

5 February 2004

BRUSSELS – Belgium has come in for yet more criticism from the European Commission, this time for failing to spend EU farm subsidies properly.

On Wednesday the Commission ordered Belgium to pay back EUR 9.32 million in farm aid. EU agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler asked for the money to be returned because he was not satisfied the country could properly account for the way it could be spent.

The Commission’s demand formed part of an EU-wide ‘clawback’ operation, which saw the EU executive order five European countries – Belgium , France, Germany,  Italy and Spain – to pay back a total of EUR 143.18 million.

“The money of European taxpayers has to be properly spent. This is why the Commission has decided to claw back farm money misspent in member sates,” Fischler said in a statement on Wednesday.

The farm fiasco is the second rap over the knuckles Belgium has had from the Commission in as many days.

On Tuesday the country’s Walloon government was criticised for paying what the Commission said were illegal subsidies to Irish airline Ryanair to encourage the carrier to use Charleroi airport in southern Belgium.

To make matters worse, Belgium could well be in for a third Commission ticking off.

The EU executive is currently investigating whether Belgian state rail company SNCB illegally subsidised its road haulage arm, ABX.

The Commission’s enquiry centres around a EUR 140 million loan SNCB made to ABX, much of which may have to be paid back if the EU executive finds against SNCB.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news