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Hand Back Over-spent Farm Money – says EU

  • October 18th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

europe-land.jpgTwo European Commission moves to get back money over-spent, or wrongly spent on agriculture support, signal determination to end old habits with market support and subsidies.

Member governments of the EU were told at the start of October (3.10.06) that some of them can expect to pay levies totaling EU 377-million (A$630-million) for exceeding milk production quotas over the past year.

Based on figures from the governments themselves, nine countries (Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Spain) exceeded delivery quotas – amounting to a small lake, 1.217-million tonnes of milk.

Management of the quotas system is an annual event; perhaps more startling was the announcement two days later (5.10.06), of a claw-back of EU317-million (A$530-million) in wrongly-applied agricultural support – from before 1999.

Italy emerged as the main target by far, being asked for reimbursement of EU 310.8 million (A$503-million); other much smaller amounts were due from France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The bills will be prepared following four-years’ work by a Recovery Task Force set up to examine the books on support given to farming industries under Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

It identified irregularly paid amounts that should have been recovered by European member states, and will now be charged to those governments.

A further EU176.3-million (A$352-million) will be written-off, because non-recovery was not deemed to be due to negligence by any government.

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mariann Fischer-Boel, said the central authority had been working very hard to ensure the best possible control over farm spending.

“This latest decision is the result of painstaking work in cases where we are not satisfied with the way member states have recovered incorrectly spent money.

“I think this sends a clear signal of how serious we are, ” she said.

The EC Vice President and Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-fraud, Siim Kallas, also indicated an example was being made.

“The Commission is serious about not tolerating irregular spending of the EU taxpayer’s money … and today’s decision is vital for a credible protection of the EU’s financial interests,” he said.

The European Commission has been steadily abandoning market supports tied to production, and export subsidies, since the early 1990s, meeting some of the demands of anti-protectionist trade competitors campaigning for the “level playing field”.

With spending in like volumes transferred to direct aid for agricultural businesses and to rural development, the European Commisison has taken up a policy of sustainable production, and competitiveness through efficient use of resources.