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Europe

Brussels Criticized Over Agriculture Fraud

Three quarters of the €3.1 billion ($3.8 billion) squandered in irregular agricultural payments from 1971 to 2002 has not been recovered, according to a new report.

Billions in fraudulent payments are not being recovered or written off due to weaknesses both in Brussels and in member states, according to a report published Wednesday by the European Court of Auditors (ECA). Some of the deficiencies highlighted by the report include delays by member states in notifying the commission and discrepancies in the data provided. The ECA also blamed "national administrative delays" and "the commission's reluctance to accept offers of partial settlement" for the problems. "Recovery of reported irregular payments is disappointingly partial and slow," David Bostock, an ECA member who presented the report, said in a statement. Fraud is concentrated in the fruit and vegetable export sector, the ECA said. When Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments of more than €4,000 are found to be "irregular" or fraudulent, member states must notify the commission and attempt to recover the payments. The EU spends more than €40 billion annually on the agriculture policy. (EUobserver.com)

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