Greece must return subsidies

Brussels – Greece will be obliged to return the huge sum of 73.44 million euros in farming subsidies, under a cloud of extensive fraud, especially concerning the production of olive oil, the cultivation of cotton and the raising of livestock. At the annual settlement of accounts at the European Union’s agricultural guarantee fund FEOGA, it emerged that member states will have to return about 115.25 million euros because of «inadequate monitoring» by domestic authorities as to how the subsidies were spent. Greece accounts for about 65 percent of the total sum. The inadequacy of local controls has been revealed through inspections conducted by FEOGA experts and by a team of independent experts. Monitoring methods used include the examination of farming organizations’ books as well as aerial photography. The sanctions are not imposed lightly: A voluminous correspondence concerning each case has taken place between EU and member-state officials. In any case, the member states can have recourse to the European Court against the decision. Concerning Greece’s case, an amount of 1.11 million euros will be recovered from tobacco and wine producers. In the second case, beyond the inadequacy of the subsidy monitoring system, the subsidy will be recovered due to the use of «incorrect» methods in estimating the alcohol level of fermented grapes, one of the essential stages in wine production. A total amount of 27.14 million euros will be recovered from livestock farmers, while 45.14 million will be recovered from olive oil producers and tobacco growers.

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