Wednesday, December 19, 2007

EU: Romanian farmers will get handouts after country improves bookkeeping

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BRUSSELS, Belgium: Millions of euros in planned European Union aid to Romanian farmers will be sent as planned after officials said Tuesday that Bucharest had enough to improve its bookkeeping procedures to prevent fraud.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said Romania had made "rapid progress" in improving control and oversight to avoid a threatened freeze in farm aid for next year.

EU officials gave Romania until mid-December to improve controls and auditing of where the EU aid is spent, through the adoption of new computer software.

Fischer Boel had warned Romania the EU would withhold 25 percent in handouts next year until its controls met EU standards.

EU officials had reviewed EU agricultural handouts for both Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the bloc this year and which are to get a substantial increase in farm aid over the next six years.

The European Commission said Tuesday's decision did not mean that Romania's checks were perfect.

"As in all new systems, certain problems may only emerge when payments start," the EU executive said in a statement, adding it would continue to monitor "closely" how aid is given out in the months ahead.

"Just as we do for all other member states we will not hesitate to claim back any misspent money," Fischer Boel said.

Both nations had been warned that some of their EU aid could be withheld unless they met EU anti-fraud controls.

Romania is set to get €443 million (US$638.6 million) from the EU's farm budget next year for direct payments to farmers.

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