|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.7, 15.2.01, p7|
EU FARM chief Franz Fischler has confirmed that there were "gaps" in controls on aid to the flax sector before European Commission Vice-President Loyola de Palacio became Spanish agriculture minister.
Responding to questions from MEPs arising from fraud investigations in Madrid and Brussels, Fischler said this week that "checks had been carried out since 1994" - as soon as concerns about flax subsidies became known.
Spanish centre-right MEPs immediately seized on the news to strengthen their case that De Palacio should not be held politically responsible for alleged fraud that occurred during her tenure as farm minister.
"The intervention of Fischler clarifies that those responsible for the control of the aid, the regional governments, began the controls late and that the irregularities did not stop until the Agriculture Council adopted a reform of the aid system," said European People's Party member Salvador Garriga Polledo.
Centre-right MEPs have been defending fellow party member De Palacio against attacks by Socialist parliamentarians who believe she should be held accountable for alleged abuses of the aid system.
Flax production in Spain soared from just 185 hectares in 1993-94 to 91,400 hectares in 1998-99 as producers increased their claims for generous subsidies. The Spanish public prosecutor has launched proceedings against more than 40 people suspected of making false claims.
The EU's anti-fraud unit OLAF is due to release its own report into the matter at the end of this month or early in March. If it finds evidence of fraud, observers believe that centre-left MEPs will call for De Palacio's resignation, even though direct control was in the hands of regional authorities.
EU farm chief Franz Fischler has confirmed that there were 'gaps' in controls on aid to the flax sector before European Commission Vice-President Loyola de Palacio became Spanish agriculture minister.
|Subject Categories||Economic and Financial Affairs|
|Countries / Regions||Spain|