Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill says some of the huge fines imposed by the European Commission for failings in farm mapping are to be challenged in the European Court of Justice.
The Department of Agriculture (DARD) estimates that the EC has imposed more than £80m in disallowances over a number of years, including some yet to be confirmed. £11.4m has been paid by Defra, leaving DARD with a £69.4m bill still to be paid.
An earlier challenge by DARD over the treatment of penalties failed as the court ruled that DARD did not have the standing to make such a challenge. Now the minister has asked Defra to challenge a more recent disallowance so that the case will be heard properly.
The minister told the Assembly: “I am pleased to announce that I have persuaded Defra to lodge a challenge with the European Court of Justice on the most recent area aids disallowance confirmed by the Commission in September.
“This means that if our original case is ruled inadmissible on standing, this second case could not be challenged on that basis. The court will have the chance now to consider and decide on the substantive issues of the case and I hope that in the end the outcome will be positive.”