Tuesday

25th Feb 2020

Billions in EU aid spent on ill-defined green projects, say auditors

  • Subsidies are not linked specifically to environmental problems, EU auditors say (Photo: European Commission)

More than a third of EU agro-environmental aid is given to farms that have no ecological problems on site or within a 10-km range, a study carried out by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) shows.

"The current policy is too vague to deliver tangible results and there are considerable problems in calculations and in differentiating between various regional and local conditions," Olavi Ala-Nissila, Finland's envoy to the EU court, said during a press conference on Monday (19 September) presenting the report.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Out of the 203 contracts checked by the ECA from eight sample member states (old and new, northern and southern), 39 percent were linked to "no specific environmental problems in the area within a range of 10 kilometres around the farm that holds the contract or it is not possible to identify problems" the report said.

Since 2000, member sates have had to make agro-environmental payments in order to qualify for money from the EU common agricultural policy (CAP). For the period 2007-2013, national governments allocated €22.2 billion in EU funds to the programmes, but have kept the targets too broad for the auditors to be able to measure effectiveness.

According to Robert Markus, one of the authors of the report, some 80 percent of the measures are not targeted to specific problems on the ground, such as water pollution or soil erosion. "Even more so, 90 percent of the money goes on a first-come, first-served basis, with no selection procedures," he said during the same press event.

One of the causes is that farmers take part in the scheme on a voluntary basis and many are not keen on take on more paperwork, which is what the ECA's "targeted approach" would entail.

"What does this policy want? The national objectives are not clear, many are formulated in a different manner. In one case we found over 100 objectives," Markus said.

Some countries managed better than others. In the UK, the measures were very specific, such as giving funds to increase biodiversity and lower use of fertilisers in order to attain a minimum number of plant and animal species on a given hectare of grassland.

Several countries found it more difficult to establish a link between environmental problems and specific measures, however. In many cases, data needed for the ECA assessment was missing or incorrect. "The EU commission says more than 50 million hectares are targeted by agro-environmental measures. This figure is meaningless," Markus noted.

Jana Polakova, from the Institute for European Environmental Policy think-tank in Brussels disagreed

Targeted measures requiring more bureaucracy are perhaps an option for richer farmers, but simpler, general measures such as the reduction in the amount of fertiliser (which leads to a decrease in production compensated by the EU scheme) is the best approach in eastern European and Nordic countries she said.

"It's very difficult to apply rigorous scientific measurements on these measures, because some won't deliver after two years. Biodiversity is more complex than that," she added.

The audit findings are relevant in the battle for the next EU budget, where northern states are pushing for a cut in the expensive CAP system unless it is strongly linked to new green policies.

A reformed CAP is to be put forward by the commission next month, with "clearer elements linked to targets" a spokesman for the EU executive said on Monday.

A leaked draft of the proposal says "direct payments should promote sustainable production by assigning 30 percent of their budgetary envelope to mandatory measures that are beneficial to climate and the environment."

MEPs warn Barroso against slashing EU farm budget

MEPs have said they do not support a large-scale reduction in funding for rural development schemes, amid reports that the European Commission may aim to make savings in this area in next week's highly-anticipated multi-annual budget proposals.

Auditor flags up spending errors in EU budget

The European Union's internal accounting books are generally in order, but a big chunk of payments are subject to "material error" its audit office has said.

No breakthrough at EU budget summit

EU leaders failed to reach agreement on the EU's long-term budget, as richer states and poorer 'cohesion countries' locked horns. The impasse continues over how to fund the Brexit gap.

EU leaders struggling to break budget deadlock

Cuts to innovation, space, neighbourhood and other programme-spending push down the latest budget proposal on the table of EU leaders. Rebates could stay on, to win the support of the net-payers for a deal.

Unhappy EU leaders begin budget haggle

EU leaders arriving at the Brussels summit criticised the budget proposal of EU Council president Charles Michel, as richer member states insisted holding onto their rebates, while poorer countries wanted to avoid deep cuts to their subsidies.

Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote

A trade deal with Vietnam sailed through the European Parliament's international trade committee and after its embassy sent MEPs bottles of Moet & Chandon Imperial champagne over Christmas.

Feature

Promises and doubts: Africa's free-trade adventure

The EU is hoping that a continent-wide free trade agreement in Africa will help lift millions out of poverty and help solve issues of security and migration. But its message of values and equal partnership do not resonate with everyone.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. Libya is test of EU geopolitics, ex-UN inspector says
  2. No risk yet to Schengen from Italy's coronavirus outbreak
  3. MEPs complain of 'no action' on Hungary and Poland
  4. Our summit can re-boot Africa's relations with Europe
  5. Belgium's Aalst carnival - no easy fix to anti-semitism
  6. EU speaks out against Israeli settler spike
  7. Polish rule of law crisis at point of no return
  8. Africa visit and EU parliament missions This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us