EU Wants Elton Money Back

The European Union has told Italy it must repay nearly $1 million of redevelopment money after it discovered it was used to pay for Elton John’s performance at last year’s Piedigrotta Festival.

After a brief inquiry by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, it ordered Italy to repay the 720,000 euros ($954,000) it spent on the show in Naples.

Cultural projects can be co-financed by the EC and regional authorities in the EU, but the authority must be satisfied that the events benefit the region.

“Cultural events, culture in general, can fall under the scope of operational programs, but they have to be aimed at structural long-term investments,” EC spokesman Ton van Lierop explained.

He confirmed the EC has sent a letter to the Italian authorities asking them to reimburse the money that was spent on the concert.

Questions were first asked when Italian Euro MP Mario Borghezio described using money to finance Sir Elton’s show at the Piazza Plebiscito in Naples as “a shameful use of European funds.” Borghezio is a member of the northern alliance of MPs dedicated to rubbing out the waste and corruption they believe to be rife in the south of the country.

It’s not rare for the EU to be criticised for the wastage in its budgets, but sensitivity has been further increased by the climate of austerity in Europe. A few governments are cutting public spending while raising taxes and the age of retirement.

Eurosonic Noorderslag creative director Peter Smidt has frequently tried to persuade the EU to support the event, given the positive impact it brings to the pan- European music business.

There’s been no suggestion that Sir Elton knew his fee was being found from European taxpayers’ money.