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Jul 25, 2023 12:54 EEST
July 25 (SeeNews) - The European Commission said it has decided to suspend payments to Albania under stage two of its Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance for Rural Development (IPARD II) programme, as the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has launched an investigation concerning suspected irregularities in spending.
“At this stage, the European Commission has taken precautionary measures based on preliminary information provided by OLAF. In particular, as a preventive measure to protect the financial interests of the European Union, the European Commission has provisionally interrupted the reimbursements to the Albanian authorities for expenditure incurred under the IPARD II programme”, a Commission spokesperson told SeeNews by email.
The European Commission did not comment on any possible findings by OLAF, but said that Albanian authorities will be informed after the anti-fraud office submits a final report.
Last week, local media reported that the Albanian government had received an official letter from EU’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development citing significant deficiencies in the functioning of the Albanian control system for the implementation of EU expenditure under the IPARD II programme as motivation behind the interruption.
Albania’s agriculture minister Frida Krifca told parliament last week that the government is working to address the issues.
“The implementing authorities are working in full partnership with EU structures to ensure meeting all the requirements and conditions for a proper functioning,” Krifca said, as seen on a social media video.
As much as 71 million euro ($78 million) have been allocated by the EU for IPARD II programmes in Albania for the period 2014-2020, according to an overview published on the website of the Commission.
In April, the EU announced it had allocated some 112 million euro ($124 million) for IPARD III programmes in Albania for the 2021-2027 period, focused on subsidizing agricultural business for the purchase of physical assets and organic farming, the implementation of local development strategies, as well as investments in rural public infrastructure.
($ = 0.901809 euro)
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