EC Probes Sir Elton Fee

The European Commission is investigating allegations that European Union funds intended to promote regional development in southern Italy were used to pay for Elton John to play Piedigrotta Festival.

A spokesman for Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner for regional policy, confirmed the probe into the source of the reported euro 600,000 ($820,000) fee the star was paid for the concert in Naples in September 2009.

“Regional development fund money was used for this project, and we now have to assess whether it fell within the funding rules,” the spokesman explained. “We’re looking into it in scrupulous detail but we need all the information before we can make an assessment.”

Cultural projects can be co-financed by the Commission and regional authorities in the EU, he explained, “but we want to know why this concert benefited this region.”

There is no suggestion that Sir Elton – who did a solo performance in the city’s Piazza Plebiscito – knew of the alleged misuse of EU money.

The fuss blew up when right-wing Italian Euro MP Mario Borghezio, a member of the Northern League devolutionist party that frequently complains about waste and corruption in the south of the country, criticised what he called a “shameful use of European funds.”

The news came days after the European Court of Auditors had once again criticised how the EU spends its money.

Dario Scalabrini, one of the organisers of the annual Piedigrotta Festival, said euro 600,000 of EU money was spent on the concert. He said the expenditure was justified as it had been used to promote Naples and had generated business locally.