EU denies subsidies were used for state corruption | News | DW | 04.11.2019
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EU denies subsidies were used for state corruption

A recent report alleged government officials in Hungary and the Czech Republic misused €59 billion in farming subsidies. But the European Commission pushed back, saying it has "zero tolerance" for fraud.

A European agency hit back on Monday against claims that money meant for farming was used to prop up "oligarchs and political patrons" in central and eastern Europe.

The European Commission has "zero tolerance for fraud" and "very clear rules for how funds should be managed," spokesman Daniel Rosario insisted, responding to allegations published in the The New York Times.

Watch video 06:11

Farm subsidies fight in the Czech Republic

Mina Andreeva, spokeswoman for OLAF, the EU anti-fraud office, denied that it was the EU's job to ensure farming subsidies were spent correctly.

"We are not here to replace national governments," she said. "We cannot and will not do the work for them."

Read more:  EU must curb corporate lobbying power — NGO

Who claimed that EU money was being misspent?

The New York Times found that part of the EU's €59 billion ($65 billion) in farm subsidies from its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was being misused by corrupt government officials, notably in Hungary and the Czech Republic.

It said the farming subsidies were "warped by corruption and self-dealing."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban adresses his audience after local elections in Budapest, Hungary.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government was one of those highlighted in the New York Times article for misusing EU farming subsidies.

The article also argued that the CAP had become too intertwined with how the EU worked, meaning that little could be done to reform the subsidies system.

Read more: EU slams Romania for not tackling corruption

The EU is 'actually following up' issues of conflict of interest

The EU body said, however, that "we are actually following up" on issues of conflict of interest as highlighted in the New York Times piece.

It added that OLAF had already put a stop to past abuses and further investigations were ongoing.

The EU is only just getting its first European Public Prosecutor's Office to ensure EU money is being spent correctly and to hold governments to account if it is not.

The Hungarian government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban of the right-wing Fidesz party, remarked: "The NYT's questions and sources clearly reflect a biased preconception about the topic."

kmm/aw (dpa/AFP)

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