Gov’t to ask for subsidy return

The government will seek the return of 387.4 million euros in illegal state subsidies given to Greek farmers in 2009, according to a document that Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis forwarded to Parliament on Tuesday.

Over 800,000 farmers will have to return the funds they received five years ago as they have been described as noncompliant with European Union legislation and deemed to constitute state subsidies.

The document from the minister notes that if the European Commission finds a state subsidy to be incompatible with EU law, then the member state that has granted it must recover the funds from the recipient by a set deadline.

Unless the Greek government asks for an extension, the money will have to be returned to the state by the end of November, given that EU law provides for a four-month period for the recovery of the funds from the issue of the final decision, in this case on July 16.

Hardouvelis also noted that if the government does not take steps to retrieve the funds, the European Court of Justice will likely order Athens to pay a fine, “while excluding Greek farmers who received the illegal subsidies from any further support until the date of full compliance.”

The finance minister noted that in its bid to implement the European Commission’s decisions regarding the return of subsidies, the government is examining each individual case closely in the hope that it will minimize the impact of the businesses concerned.

The minister also noted in the document – which came in response to a question in Parliament – that the responsibility for determining the process regarding the return of the funds rests with the Agricultural Development Ministry.

A couple of weeks ago former Prime Minister Costas Simitis claimed that the so-called Hatzigakis package, named after then Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, was a favor to the New Democracy politician’s constituents.

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