The Spanish government has been ordered to repay EUR54.9m (US$86.3m) in European Union (EU) subsidies after the European Commission concluded it had wasted the money on unauthorised planting of vineyards in 2003 and 2004.

The expansion broke EU planting controls designed to contract Europe's wine sector into a commercially viable sector focused on quality wines, rather than churning out cheap wine that ends up in compulsory distillation programmes.

EU agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said: "We are working extremely hard to maintain the best possible control over spending."

Brussels can demand the repayment of EU Common Agricultural Policy subsidies where member states have "inadequate control procedures or non-compliance with EU rules on expenditure", as was the case with Spain.