IN SHORT

EC unhappy with farming funds and steel

THE EUROPEAN Commission warned the Slovak government last week about problems with preparations for drawing agricultural subsidies from eurofunds and steel overproduction by the company US Steel Košice (USSK), the news wire TASR wrote.

But both the Slovak Agriculture Ministry, responsible for designing and governing the subsidy system for Slovak farmers, and the Finance Ministry, involved in settling the issue of USSK's overproduction, argue that the EC's warnings do not reflect the recent steps taken in these two problematic areas.

According to Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon, the accreditation of the Agricultural Payment Agency, due to allocate the EU subsidies, should be completed by the end of April. He added that the agency had already begun paying subsidies to farmers earmarked for this year and the whole sum, totalling Sk2.3 billion (€56.7 million), should be paid by the end of the following week.

Peter Papanek, spokesman for Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš, said that the negotiations concerning the USSK steel overproduction were heading towards successful completion ahead of Slovakia's entry to the European Union on May 1.

The overproduction problem is based on the mixed interpretation of Slovakia's Accession Treaty with the EU. While the company thought production limits would apply as of the day of Slovakia's entry into the union, the EC insists that the starting date was the day of signature in late 2002.

If no agreement is reached, Slovakia could face sanctions for up to three years from the EC, or a suit before the European Court of Justice.

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