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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Over 800,000 Farmers Asked to Return Funds Received in 2009

Over 800,000 farmers will have to return funds they received five years ago as they have been described as non compliant with European Union legislation and deemed to constitute state subsidies. 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 handed to the Greek Parliament. The money will have to be returned to the state by the end of November, given that EU law allows for a four-month period for the funds’ recovery from the issue of the final decision, unless the Greek government asks for an extension. The deadline expired on July 16. Hardouvelis 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 added 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 on the businesses concerned. Hardouvelis also noted in the document – which came in response to a question in Parliament – that the responsibility for determining the process for the funds’ return, rests with the Agricultural Development Ministry. The ruling of the European Court is final. The case was opened in January 2009, when the European Commission was informed about the compensations which were to be paid by the Greek Agricultural Insurance Organization (ELGA) after protests by large number of Greek agricultural producers who have suffered damages due to bad weather in 2008.