Tuesday, July 14, 2009

EU to unfreeze pre-accession farm cash for Romania

BRUSSELS, July 13 (Reuters) - Romania will soon receive a European Union reimbursement of 189 million euros ($262.9 million) in agricultural funding blocked last year due to irregularities, the European Commission said on Monday.

The cash is part of an EU funding programme known as Sapard granted for Romania between 200O and 2006 to help it prepare its farming sector for accession to the European Union. Romania and Bulgaria became full EU members in January 2007.Under the scheme, Romania was allowed to spend the money up to the end of 2008, a deadline then extended to the end of 2009.

But in July last year, the Commission said it had found shortcomings in Romania's farm payment system, and decided to suspend its usual reimbursement of Sapard fund claims submitted by Bucharest until the situation was rectified."We've written a letter to the Romanian authorities to unfreeze this money," one Commission official said. "They (Romania) have implemented an action plan, an internal audit and acceded to our request for more information," he added.

The EU earmarked 1.16 billion euros in Sapard funding for Romania over the 2000-06 period, of which 957 million was declared by Bucharest as utilised, he said. The Commission had only reimbursed 768 million, leaving 189 million euros blocked."They haven't got long to spend this money, only until the end of this year," the official said.

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