The European Commission can claim back irregularly spent funds intended for agriculture, but it never comments on a case until any such irregularities have been identified, Hina was told on Thursday after it inquired about allegedly irregular allocations of Rural Development Programme funds in Croatia.
"We always apply the general principle of protecting the rights of the auditee by not disclosing detailed information until the end of the procedure. We do not comment on any cases before a decision is taken," the Commission said in response to Hina's request to comment on a Croatian media report about irregular allocations of funds under Measure 4 of the Rural Development Programme.
Nacional weekly says it has a copy of a document listing companies that have received funding under Measure 4 of the Programme to which they are not entitled because they are owned by the same persons. Nacional says that 21 such companies are named in a negative opinion of the European Commission, including two owned by Agrokor of Ivica Todoric, five owned by Zito of Marko Pipunic and four owned by Mirko Ervacic.
The Commission would neither confirm nor deny the report, saying only that audits are carried out annually in all member states.
"The Commission carries out over 100 audits every year, verifying that Member State controls and responses to shortcomings are sufficient, and has the power to claim back funds in arrears if the audits show that Member State management and control is not good enough to guarantee that EU funds have been spent properly. This is the so called clearance of accounts procedure on which the Commission takes decisions several times a year," the European Commission said.
It said that its role was to ensure that member states managed the allocated funds in accordance with the clear rules of the Common Agriculture Policy.