Spanish PM wants more EU compensation for E.coli mistake
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Wednesday the European Union (EU) had offered too little compensation for incorrect claims Spanish produce caused a deadly E.coli outbreak in Germany, Xinhua reported.
The Germans originally blamed Spanish cucumbers for the outbreak of the infection, which has killed 25 people. The cucumbers were later found to be not the cause, but the Spanish agricultural sector suffered huge losses, with sales, not just of cucumbers, but also other vegetables and fruits badly affected.
It is estimated that more than 200 million euros (292.5 million U.S. dollars) and more than 500 jobs were lost in the first week of the E.coli crisis and the figures are still rising.
The EU has promised 150 million euros in aid for Spain, but Zapatero insists more is needed.
"It is manifestly not enough. We are going to demand that the agricultural sector receives compensation and we are not going to stop with our efforts," Zapatero said.
Speaking in the Spanish Parliament, Zapatero said Spain's Official Credit Institute would also be working to compensate cucumber producers, and announced the creation of a finance system to help with the effort.
Zapatero also defended the government's handling of the crisis, rejecting claims by the opposition Popular Party that the ruling Socialists acted slowly after the finger of blame for the E.coli outbreak had been pointed at Spanish products.
The prime minister insisted his government had acted "as soon as the imprudent declarations were made."
Spain has not ruled out legal action against Germany and Zapatero said they would not stop the country's campaign to put things "in their proper place."
Zapatero also revealed high level diplomatic contact with Russia to persuade the Russians to open their doors to Spanish produce, after they were closed due to the E.coli bacteria outbreak.