Farmers urged to tidy up their act

Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos said yesterday that irresponsible demands by sections of the country’s farming community posed the danger of EU fines and brought an unjustified burden on the taxpayers. «It is obvious that meeting certain irresponsible demands for national income supports would lead to the imposition of higher EU fines and would weaken our negotiating position now that crucial issues of Community supports are being discussed, giving rise to the counterargument ‘if you can grant national supports, why are you asking for Community ones?’,» he said. Basiakos noted that the bad implementation of the relevant EU regulations in recent years cost the country 565.32 million euros in fines since 1999 for deficient controls, exceeding production limits and violations of EU legislation in the sectors of olive oil, fresh produce, cotton, arable crops, wine, animal farming, dairy produce, canned peaches and tomatoes, early retirement and others. A further case for cotton and fresh produce is pending adjudication at the European Court, in which the fine is likely to be on the order of 110-130 million euros. «As a result of all this, the country has been hassled and defamed and has suffered considerable financial bleeding. At long last, after 23 years in the EU, this has to stop. In any case, the ban on national supports applies throughout the EU for reasons of competition. Besides, we have to manage public money prudently and responsibly,» Basiakos said. EU subsidies account for about half of Greek farmers’ incomes.