EU asks Italy for return of $1 million used for Elton John concert

The European Union is asking Italy to return $1 million which was inappropriately used to pay for an Elton John concert.

Salvatore Laporta/AP/File
Elton John salutes the audience during his performance at the Piedigrotta festival in Naples, Sept. 1,1 2009. The European Union ordered Italy to repay it close to $1 million in EU funds used to stage an Elton John concert. The European Commission says Italy had no right to use EU funds for the 2009 concert in the city of Naples. EU spokesman Ton van Lierop said EU money can be used to promote culture but not if that means staging a one-off rock concert. "We have asked for our money back," he added.

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.

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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.

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