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EU demands Italy repay Elton John concert costs

The European Union said Friday it has ordered Italy to repay almost $1 million in EU money that was used to pay Elton John for a concert in Naples last year.

Italy used €720,000 ($983,000) in EU money — typically used for investment projects in poorer EU countries — for the British singer's performance fee.

The European Commission said that was inappropriate.

National authorities have much leeway in using EU funding. But to qualify for EU money, cultural projects must be long-term events such as art exhibits, building cultural centers or restoring old buildings.

A "one-off rock concert" does not qualify, said EU spokesman Ton van Lierop. "So we have asked Italy for our money back."

John performed at the Piedigrotta festival in the heart of Naples in October 2009. The concert was broadcast live on state TV and drew 100,000 spectators.

Dario Scalabrini, the festival's artistic director, said the event was meant to promote the Naples area and the concert did just that.

John regaled crowds on Naples' Plebiscitto square with such classics as "Candle in the Wind" and "Your Song."