EU orders Italy to pay back Elton John subsidy

Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:54am EST
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission has ordered Italy to repay 720,000 euros ($1 million) used by local authorities to pay for a concert by British singer Elton John last year, a Commission spokesman said on Friday.

The concert, in the southern city of Naples, was part of the Piedigrotta festival in September 2009 and was funded in part from a 2.25 million euro grant to promote regional development.

The affair was brought to light by Mario Borghezio, a member of the European parliament from the federalist Northern League party, who requested authorities to take action.

"We have sent a letter, yesterday, to the Italian authorities ... asking them to reimburse, so pay back, the 720,000 euros from EU funding from the European Regional Development Fund used for this concert," spokesman Ton van Lierop told a regular briefing.

"Cultural events, culture in general, can fall under the scope of operational programs, but they have to be aimed at structural long-term investments," he said.

(Reporting by Rex Merrifield; editing by David Stamp)