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Brussels questions Italy's use of EU funds for Elton John concert

The European Commission is set to probe authorities in Italy over their use of hundreds of thousands of euros in EU funds to stage an Elton John concert in Naples. The money was meant for growth-enhancing projects.

Elton John at the piano

It remains unknown whether Elton was paid for the show

Investigators are looking into a possible misuse of European Union funds after Italian officials spent 720,000 euros ($985,000) in development aid for a concert last year featuring Elton John.

"We want to know right now about why this concert would need such funding," EU regional funding spokesman Ton Van Lierop said on Friday, stressing that the funds were typically used to boost the economies of the EU's poorer regions.

Elton John performed in Naples on September 11, 2009. The show was part of the Piedigrotta festival costing over 2.2 million euros, half of which came from EU regional funds. It was not known whether John, one of the world's most successful popular artists, was paid for the concert.

The case was brought to the attention of Brussels authorities by Mario Borghezio, a European Parliament deputy from the Northern League, a party that has advocated secession of northern Italy from the poorer south.

"It is time for certain southern regions to learn the lesson and realize that - in cases where the commission does not act on its own - we from the League will be ready to report to relevant EU authorities instances of misspending," he Borghezio said, referring to the "shameful misuse" of EU funds by the Campania regional authority.

The EU allocates millions to help poorer regions catch up with more prosperous areas in the bloc. For projects costing up to 50 million euros, funding decisions are up to local authorities.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question, EU regional funds commissioner Johannes Hahn told Borghezio that if Campania authorities fail to give satisfactory answers "they will have to de-certify the sums in question and deduct them from their next payment request."

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Kyle James

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