EU farm subsidies to be returned

Greece has until February 8 to explain to the European Commission how it plans to extract 424.8 million euros from farmers that it paid compensation to in 2009 after Brussels deemed that this money was an illegal state subsidy.

After examining the 415-million-euro package that Sotiris Hatzigakis — then agriculture minister in the New Democracy government — awarded to protesting farmers, the Commission deemed that most of it was subsidies that contravened EU competition laws rather than compensation for damaged crops as Greece had argued. This means that the relevant amount plus interest must be recovered.

Hatzigakis insisted on Tuesday that Brussels had interpreted the matter wrongly and that Greece would be vindicated if it appeals to the European Court of Justice. ?The granting of compensation to each farmer was based on clear facts and in line with both Greek and European Union legislation,? he said.

Brussels wants Greece to collect the money from the farmers within the next four months or else it could face further legal action and stiff financial penalties.

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