Pressure rises on Athens to mend ways in farm funds allocation

The European Parliament (EP) is adding to the already strong pressure on Greece to mend its ways in the management of European Union funds flowing to its agricultural sector, particularly subsidies to farmers, or face cuts. In its annual report on the Union’s budget, released yesterday, the assembly mainly targets the country’s Integrated Management and Control System (IMCS) in the farm sector, which appears neither to be integrated nor to secure the efficient management and allocation of funds. The EP considers it «regrettable» that the European Court of Auditors continues to find problems in the application of IMCS, particularly in the olive oil-producing sector in Greece, Italy and Spain, and urges the European Commission to step up inspections to uncover irregularities and fraudulent practices. Going a step further, the EP also expresses its full support for another intention of the European Commission, which was made public some time ago and was reiterated at the assembly’s hearings on the possible suspension of payments from the Community budget. It calls on the Commission «to apply with the utmost strictness legislation in force on the suspension of payments in the event that the government fails to correct existing problems within the deadlines set.» The Commission has already asked the Greek government to draw up a specific action plan for dealing with the recurring problems, with detailed targets and deadlines. As recently as last December, the Commission imposed a 235-million-euro fine on Greece for irregularities and other problems involving funds to the farm sector, of which 167.7 million euros corresponded to olive oil production alone.

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