Press Release OLAF/15/2003, 29 May 2003

In response to a massive increase in the amounts of sugar being imported into the territory of the European Community from a number of countries in the Balkans, (more than 250,000 tonnes in 2001-2002), OLAF opened a number of investigations into this matter. The increase in imports is closely linked with a Regulation applicable from September 2000, whereby these countries were able to benefit from preferential trade conditions in exporting their goods to the European market.

OLAF has been particularly interested in consignments from Croatia imported into Greece which contained a mixture of beet sugar and cane sugar, as Croatia is not known to be a country in which sugar cane is grown. This case has been referred to the judicial authorities in Greece and OLAF has assisted the Thessaloniki prosecutors.

More generally, the investigations carried out by OLAF have shown up the difficulties in applying the Regulation as well as its shortcomings. As a result of these findings, on 30 April 2003 the European Commission suspended the preferential regime for Serbia and Montenegro for 3 months. This suspension follows the warning given to importers published by the Commission on 26 June 2002.

Mr Alessandro Butticé
Spokesman of the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF)
Fax : +32 (0)2 299.8101

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