New Europeans use imaginary cattle to milk EU subsidies

EU - Auditors have refused to sign off accounts for the 12th year.
calendar icon 24 October 2006
clock icon 2 minute read
Livestock farmers in Slovenia, only two years after joining the European Union, are proving as imaginative as Italian olive growers when claiming Brussels subsidies.
Inspectors found that half the cattle that Slovene farmers said they owned, so qualifying them for special EU cow and beef grants, did not exist. A quarter of their sheep and goats were equally invisible.

Discrepancies between farming fact and fiction, which are equally strong among the older members of the EU, cost almost €1 billion (£670 million) last year — about 2 per cent of the agriculture budget.

Nine payments worth €2 billion to olive oil producers in Spain, Greece and Italy last year were either inflated or wrong, according to the annual report of the European Court of Auditors, the EU spending watchdog. In the case of Italy, it went even further, describing two cases as irregular.

The auditors discovered that two thirds of the 95 EUfinanced regional projects that they examined, which include new roads and bridges, contained “material errors”. These ranged from a lack of proper invoices for expenditure being reclaimed to declaring costs that had no relation to the scheme being funded. There are also considerable variations in the way that national authorities apply EU rules.

Last year Poland simply gave a warning to anyone who did not apply good farming practices. Under EU law, they should have been fined almost €1 million. In Greece, farmers’ unions input agricultural data into insecure computer systems that can be modified externally at any time.

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