EC fraud warning

RECENT reforms to the EC Common Agricultural Policy leave it open to fraud on a wider scale than ever, a former official with the Community warned yesterday, writes Alan Murdoch.

David Haworth, a former deputy director of the EC delegation in Washington, said that the switch from price subsidies to direct payments to farmers relied on the European Commission knowing what nine million farmers produced and possessed, an impossible task. 'There's even talk in Brussels of sending up a satellite to take pictures of the CAP from outer space,' he said.

Mr Howarth was speaking at the annual Humbert summer school at Ballina in Co Mayo, Ireland, attended by European diplomats, politicians and journalists. 'Every annual fixing of EC agricultural prices makes cheating a greater temptation and possibility - never more so than in this year's settlement,' he said.

He warned of the ' 'Italianisation' of Europe' by a spreading of corruption and political patronage through systems of government, alongside chronic budget deficits. The only solution, he said, was 'a certain hard-nosed attitude, rather than politesse'.

Speaking of the possible enlargement of the EC, he warned of a 'stupendous scale of corruption and crime' in former Eastern Bloc countries which western Europe found impossible to grasp.