Italy accused of abusing bird flu handout

Suspicions that Italy has abused a European Union (EU) licence for making emergency poultry industry aid to cope with the bird flu crisis, has prompted a European Commission inquiry.

Brussels, fears the Italian government may have provided much more assistance than required to deal with bird flu-related falls in demand.

It noted that Italy allowed for the government purchase of 17,000t of poultry meat and products; suspended tax and social security payments; and offered restructuring and conversion aid.

The Commission said it "cannot at the moment determine whether the aid is in conformity with EU state aid provisions", preventing governments unfairly assisting local businesses in the border-free EU market.

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