Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

EU asks Italy why farmers have not paid €1.4bn superlevy fine

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Mediterranean nations are renowned for their relaxed attitude to life but Italian dairy farmers have taken their laid-back approach to a whole new level.

So relaxed are Italy's milk producers, in fact, that they still have not paid a superlevy bill totalling €1.4bn that dates back as far as 1995.

The bill has been paid by the Italian government to Europe but not collected from farmers.

The European Commission has formally given Italy two months' notice to explain to the Commission why the superlevy fine has not been collected from farmers.

In spite of repeated and numerous requests from the Commission, the majority of levies due between 1995 and 2009 have not been recovered.

According to the Commission, the Italian authorities have not taken the appropriate measures to recover the money.

At least €1.42bn is owed by dairy farmers for exceeding the national milk quota.

"This amount needs to be reimbursed to the Italian budget, so that the Italian taxpayers do not lose out," the Commission told Italian officials on Thursday.

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A spokesman for the Commission said Italy's failure to pay the levies undermined the efforts undertaken at European level to stabilise the market of dairy products.

It also distorted competition with other European and Italian producers who respected the production quotas or paid the surplus levies in case of overrun, he added.

Meanwhile, the Commission has formally called on Greece to end its discriminatory tax on milk and milk imported from other member states.

Greece currently applies a levy on purchases of milk and milk products but the levy is not applied as severely to products produced in Greece.

Greece has also fallen foul of the European Commission over nitrate pollution, with a case set to be heard at the European Court of Justice. Even though the Nitrates Directive has been in place since 1991, Greece has still not designated a number of zones that are vulnerable to nitrate pollution.

Poland also has a date with the European Court of Justice for its failure to follow EU rules on genetically modified (GMO) crops. EU rules insist every country must keep a register of where GMO crops are grown, but Poland has not done so.

Irish Independent