Wednesday, December 19, 2007

EU drops threat to cut Romanian farm aid
18 December 2007, 19:02 CET

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission dropped on Tuesday a threat to slash Romania's farm aid by a quarter after finding Bucharest had taken sufficient action to improve its controls on handouts to farmers.

On October 10, the European Union's executive body first threatened to withold the aid unless the Romanian government resolved "serious problems" in the way it manages and controls the aid it allocates to farmers.

In November, it then called on Romania to install computer systems to feed in results of on-the-spot checks on farms and the calculation of money paid to farmers.

After an independent review found the changes had been made, the Commission decided that cutting farm aid to Romania "cannot be justified," it said in a statement.

"I commend Romania for the rapid progress they have made in improving their control systems, which avoided a triggering of the safeguard," EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said.

While some problems still needed to be solved, Fischer Boel said: "I hope the remaining issues can be ironed out quickly, which will permit farmers to get their payments."

Romania, which joined the European Union along with Bulgaria on January 1, is earmarked to receive 443 million euros (638 million dollars) of EU agricultural aid this year.

When it joined, Romania was still considered to have inadequate control over its farm aid, food safety problems, and shortfalls in the fight against corruption, and was to remain under Commission surveillance for three years.

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