ECONOMY

EU ends Balkan sugar aid

BRUSSELS – The European Commission has scrapped subsidies for sugar exports to the western Balkans in a bid to stamp out fraud under a special trade concession scheme, EU officials said on Monday. «The European Commission has decided not to pay export refunds to countries who are part of the western Balkans,» said an EU executive spokesman. A Commission source said there was no time limit in the decision and the ban on export refunds would be in place for the foreseeable future. The Commission decision to end export refunds on white and raw sugar and syrups was published in the EU’s Official Journal on March 8. Albania, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are all excluded from the scheme. Two types of fraud had been detected in the special trade regime where western Balkan nations can export locally produced sugar free of duty and quotas into the EU, the spokesman said. Firstly, EU sugar sales to the countries have found their way into exports from the Balkan states. «There has been a risk of triangular trade,» said the spokesman. And secondly, the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF is investigating the export of cane sugar from the Balkans into the EU under the preferential regime. Cane sugar comes from other countries because only beet sugar is grown in the Balkans. Suspicions have long been rife that some Balkan dealers have sold sugar to the EU under the deal at around $600 per ton by re-exporting material bought on world markets at around $200. This practice has helped to destabilize local markets in Greece, Italy and Austria, they say.