Spain says Germany mulls EU aid over cucumber slur

3rd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to consider EU compensation for Spain after a fatal bacteria outbreak in Germany was wrongly blamed on Spanish cucumbers, Madrid said.

Merkel made the offer in a telephone conversation Thursday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister's office said.

The German leader told Zapatero she regretted the damage suffered to Spain's producers but said she believed the northern city of Hamburg acted legally when it pinpointed the Spanish produce.

Spain's prime minister stressed the "negative consequences and the serious economic damages" the crisis had provoked among Spanish vegetable and fruit exporters, his office said.

"Merkel promised that Germany would consider formulas within the European framework to compensate affected farmers," said the statement, posted online late Thursday.

The unexplained outbreak of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli has killed 18 people and sickened more than 2,000 in Europe and beyond.

Officials in the northern city of Hamburg, the epicentre, initially blamed Spanish cucumbers but tests this week showed they did not carry the E. coli strain responsible for the contamination.

Zapatero has promised that Spain, already struggling with a weak economy and high unemployment, will seek compensation over the false allegations.

Spain's fruit and vegetable exporters estimate they have lost more than 200 million euros ($290 million) a week as 150,000 tonnes of produce went unsold in a Europe-wide reaction to the outbreak.

© 2011 AFP

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