Nine countries that joined the EU in 2004 are to be fined more than E41m (£28m) for building up excessive stocks of food in the run-up to their accession, enabling them to make speculative profits as a result of the EU’s higher prices.
The biggest fine is being handed out to Poland at E12.4m (£8.4m), closely followed by the Czech Republic and Estonia.
Treaty rules specifically say that there should be no stockpiling of agricultural goods ahead of accession. But above normal stock levels were found in nine of the 10 new member states for meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables and wine.
The fines – which will be spread over four years to soften the blow – have been condemned by the new member states, who believe they already get a bad deal from EU membership due to the lower level of subsidies paid to their farmers.
But EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said such measures were a normal feature of every enlargement. “It is our legal duty to make sure these rules are enforced, because they prevent companies across the EU being harmed by excessive stockpiling,” she said.