Sunday

24th Oct 2021

French farmers reject EU call to pay back aid

French farmers have refused the government's call to pay back €330 million of state aid distributed to fruit and vegetable producers between 1992 to 2002 and later ruled illegal by the European Commission.

"It's clear we must get farmers to start reimbursing the funds," French agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire said in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper published on Monday (3 August).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Promising he would "do nothing that could compromise the future of the sector," Mr Le Maire explained that the government would have to start collecting the money from September, so as to complete the task by the commission's January 2010 deadline.

The EU executive earlier this year ruled that the state aid, initially introduced at a time of poor weather conditions, turned into a source of secure finance for investments in tractors and marketing schemes.

The commission highlighted "subsidising sales prices, storage or the destruction of part of the crop as well as financial incentives for processing the fresh product" as examples of illegal measures which harmed farmers from other countries. It also mentioned "export subsidies based on prices and quantities produced."

The EU regulator said that "such measures are clearly likely to distort competition on the community market by promoting the disposal of French fruit and vegetables to the detriment of produce from other member states."

In Monday's interview, minister Le Maire reassured farmers that the agriculture ministry would proceed on a "case-by-case basis so that the land holdings of the weakest farmers would not be jeopardised." He said that it is better for Paris to tackle the situation now rather than see farmers pay even higher penalties in five or six years' time.

Francois Lafitte, the president of agro-economic federation Fedecom, said it is "impossible" for farmers to pay back the sum, however.

"It's not up to the producers to pay for the fallout from a policy which they did not devise," Mr Lafitte told French magazine Le Point.

Fruit and vegetable producers – currently facing economic hardship - are expected to stage protests against the pending government move. Last Thursday, fruit farmers already blocked trucks crossing the border from Spain.

France is the biggest recipient of EU agriculture subsidies, cashing in about €9 billion in farm aid last year.

But French farmers say they are at a disadvantage to their Spanish couterparts because Spanish labour is cheaper, while farming in Belgium and the Netherlands is more industrialised.

More fruit and vegetables from Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands have recently ended up in France as eastern European markets sag in the economic downturn, the Wall Street Journal says.

Luxembourg tax scandal may prompt EU action

An investigation into Luxembourg's tax regime has uncovered how the Italian mafia, the Russian underworld, and billionaires attempt to stash away their wealth. The European Commission has put itself on standby amid suggestions changes to EU law may be needed.

Investigation

Portugal vs Germany clash on EU corporate tax avoidance

Portugal's taking over the EU presidency puts the tax transparency law for corporations - which has been fought over for years - to a vote in the Council of Ministers. The resistance of the German government has failed.

News in Brief

  1. Russia's anti-vax campaign backfired, EU says
  2. China angered as MEPs call for Taiwan talks
  3. Emissions from La Palma volcano reach Brussels
  4. Body of eighth victim of Belarus border-crisis found in river
  5. Report: Syrian bank fiddling currency to evade EU sanctions
  6. Nato adopts plan to counter new Russian threats
  7. Alleged killer of British MP 'felt affiliated' to IS
  8. Coronavirus: Belgium returns to 'red' zone

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. EU states want more Belarus sanctions
  2. Gas price spike exposes rift at EU summit
  3. Poland vows not to give into EU 'blackmail' at summit
  4. EU vows to uphold Paris climate ambition amid scientists' fears
  5. Commissions's new migration pact still seeking 'landing zone'
  6. Europe can't ignore Chinese encroachment in Ukraine
  7. Lithuania - where 'biodiversity funding' is cutting down trees
  8. Dutch lawyers take Frontex to EU court over pushbacks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us