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EU fines Italy, Spain, Greece for illegal vine plantings

Published:  26 June, 2012

European Union officials have ordered Spain, Italy and Greece to repay millions of euros for illegally planting vines.

Spain must hand back €131.3m (US$164m) of funding handed out by the European Commission, while Italy must repay €98.9m.

Both countries are accused of misusing money from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget by allowing unlicensed vineyard plantings.

Crisis-hit Greece must also repay €21.3m for the same reason, although a new rule says that countries receiving financial assistance may delay repayment for up to 18 months.

Illegal plantings threaten to undermine the Commission's efforts to drain an EU wine surplus. Officials have spent close to €1.1bn in the past three years to compensate wine grape growers for grubbing-up their vines.

Vine plantings in the EU are currently controlled by quotas. The Commission plans to liberalise the market by ending its quota scheme, but several big producer nations fear this will cause a free-for-all that will bring a return to overproduction.