Wednesday

3rd Jun 2020

Greece and Poland top list of EU farm money clawbacks

  • Greece has to pay back over €100 million in misspent EU subsidies for cotton fields (Photo: Martin LaBar)

The European Commission is to claw back €346.5 million of misspent farm aid from 20 member states, with Greece and Poland accounting for more than half of that sum.

The money will return to the EU budget because member states failed to apply the proper financial controls and allowed ineligible expenditures to slip through.

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"This exercise remains a very important instrument in making sure that member states have sufficient controls in place to ensure that taxpayers' money is properly spent," EU farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos said in a statement.

The biggest laggard is Greece, which on top of its current economic woes will have to pay back €132.6 million. Most of that amount, over €105 million, went to cotton farmers who were "overshooting" EU quotas and were not properly checked by Greek authorities when it comes to environmental measures.

Greece is the largest cotton producer in Europe, with some 80,000 farmers growing the crop.

The country's reputation has already suffered in recent months after revelations that it fiddled data relating to the EU's financial stability pact.

The second largest chunk of misspent EU farm subsidies will be clawed back from Poland - €92 million for "acceptance of ineligible land for payments" and "insufficient" checks in regions with high error rates.

Spain, another big recipient of EU funds, has to pay back €47.5 million, mostly for including an "ineligible cost of environmental management of packaging" to subsidies given in the fruit and vegetable sector.

Europe's farm giant, France, is also guilty of the same ineligible costs, as well as "weak controls" in the environmental standards for animal farms. The total bill for Paris reaches €19.5 million.

Great Britain and the Netherlands are also on the list with €14.2 and €10.4 million respectively. London failed to meet deadlines, whereas Amsterdam had insufficient checks in export refunds.

The rest of the sinners are staying below €10 million however: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovakia and Sweden.

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