Europe

Elton John Naples gig gets organisers into hot water

Sir Elton John saluting the crowd at Piedigrotta festival in Naples, September 2009
Image caption Sir Elton is one of the most successful artists in the history of pop music

The organisers of an Elton John concert in Italy have been told to pay back the money they used to stage the event.

The 720,000 euros (£613,000) came from the European Union as part of a fund to enhance regional development in the Campania region.

Sir Elton was the headline act at a festival in Naples last year.

The European Commission only recently discovered that some of its funds had been used to stage the gig by one of the biggest names in music.

The affair was brought to light by Mario Borghezio, an Italian MEP from the Northern League party, who said using EU cash in this way was "shameful".

Outside the remit

After looking into the allegations, the commission this week sent a letter to the Italian government and the Campania regional authorities asking them to reimburse the money.

Commission spokesman Ton Van Lierop said this concert fell outside the remit of the funding programme.

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

The pop star appeared at the Piedigrotta festival in September 2009, performing in Naples' Piazza del Plebiscito in a concert that drew an audience of 100,000 and was broadcast live on state TV.

Dario Scalabrini, the festival's artistic director, told Associated Press the event was meant to promote the Naples area and the concert had done just that.

Deduction from payments

The rest of the EU fund, thought to total around 2.25m euros ($3m; £2m), is not at stake, although the investigation is part of a broader audit of EU-funded projects in Campania.

Sir Elton is not accused of doing anything wrong.

Image caption Organisers said the Elton John concert helped promote the Naples area

Our Europe Correspondent Matthew Price says it is the local Italian officials who decided to use the funding in this way who find themselves in hot water.

Mr Van Lierop said the money would be repaid "by deducting from the next (EU) payments."

Development funding for the EU's poorest regions is the second largest item in the EU budget after farm spending.

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