Brussels digs in heels over Portugal’s €143 million agricultural “debt”

If Agriculture Minister Assunção Cristas thought her winning smile was enough to sway the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, she has been sadly mistaken.

It may work “out in the field” when sporting designer wellies, but it fell on stony ground with Phil Hogan in Brussels yesterday when he reiterated, in no uncertain terms, that Portugal has to honour the €143 million debt it has to Europe for the mismanagement of farming subsidies during the years of Sócrates’ administrations.

“The rules were not complied with and it became a huge problem,” he explained. “At the request of the minister, the only thing we can do is extend the payment deadline and phase it over three years.”

This is not good enough for Cristas, however, who has been battling for months to get the debt reduced.

Talking to journalists afterwards, she said Portugal would now “act judicially”.

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