Deputy minister’s subsidies frozen

STATE subsidies for Deputy Agriculture Minister Marián Zahumenský’s tobacco firm have been stopped by Prime Minister Robert Fico while the government waits for European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel to give an opinion on the case.

The commissioner’s spokesman, Michael Mann, said that while “ it is not the job of the commission to solve national questions on subsidies”, the commissioner would study the letter it received from Fico and issue a reply.

Meanwhile, the three parties of the political opposition criticized Fico for turning to Brussels rather than immediately firing Zahumenský.

A change to the subsidy rules prepared by Zahumenský after taking office in July meant that his Agrocontract Mikuláš firm received Sk4.4 million more in state subsidies. However, Zahumenský has said he was only correcting an illegal change to the rules by former minister Zsolt Simon of the opposition SMK party, who had wanted to punish him (Zahumenský), then the shadow agriculture minister for the Smer party.

Zahumenský also said he was selling Agrocontract, and that “this will not be a merely formal sale to relatives, like when Simon sold his company to his mother”.

Many agriculture ministers and officials around the EU have owned agricultural businesses, according to the Pravda daily, which have received subsidies legally under the Union’s rules for the payments.

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