Monday

22nd Jul 2019

Royals and multinationals raking in EU farm aid

  • EU cow: the commission has thrown a spotlight on the way the EU spends €55 billion a year (Photo: European Commission)

Royal landowners and multinational companies were among the biggest beneficiaries of the EU's €55 billion farm aid budget in 2008, a new EU transparency law has shown.

In France, which alone scooped €10.4 billion of the pot, the Doux Group, which sells chicken products to over 130 countries worldwide, was the biggest single recipient on €62 million.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Major food companies Nestle and Tate & Lyle were the largest UK winners on around €1 million each.

British aristocrats, who command significant personal fortunes, also pocketed sizeable amounts of EU cash. The Queen received around €530,000. The Duke of Westminster got €540,000. Prince Charles took €180,000.

Germany has declined to publish its figures despite the EU deadline for compliance at midnight on 30 April.

Berlin says it faces legal constraints due to data protection laws in local districts. But the European Commission on Thursday (30 April) said it may take the country to the EU courts if it does not fall into line.

Meanwhile, the same funding pattern was repeated in smaller EU states.

In Ireland, frozen food giant Greencore Group received the largest subsidy on €83 million. The Irish Dairy Board Co-op came second on €6.5 million. Kerry Ingredients Ireland was third on €5 million.

Many individual farmers received around €100,000 each. Tom and Aoife Browne from the town of Killeagh got €433,000.

Pulling teeth

Farm aid transparency was pioneered by a group of Danish investigative journalists who in 2004 forced Copenhagen to release its figures and set up the website farmsubsidy.org to pressure other EU states.

The EU law was pushed through by the office of EU anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas. The Estonian official, who also created an EU lobbyists' register, has made transparency his trademark in a bid to secure a second mandate.

Farmsubsidy.org campaigner Jack Thurston has criticised the commission's initiative, which leaves it up to the 27 EU states to manage their own data revelations, giving a patchy picture of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

"We would have preferred central disclosure by the commission, which does hold all the data itself, but that was a battle we lost," he said.

The disclosure is unpopular for other reasons among some farmers.

"It does seem a bit much that details of private income are open to all and sundry. Why should such things be open for everyone to see?" Irish cattle and sheep farmers representative Malcolm Thompson told the Irish Times.

The funding revelations have also sparked fresh complaints over the way the EU distributes its largesse.

"These subsidies are divided unfairly. Everyone has known for a long time that there is no link between incomes and subsidies, which results in an unjust system," French rural workers spokesman Philippe Collin said in Les Echos.

Unpopular policy

The CAP - which is currently being re-modelled to help create new types of rural jobs and to serve environmental goals - has long-attracted criticism for wasting money and killing competition from developing countries.

A study by the University of Liverpool in 2008 even said it kills thousands of Europeans by promoting fatty foods which cause heart disease.

But in eastern Europe, EU subsidies have also helped thousands of small farmers to buy new equipment, boost income and send their children to university for the first time in family history.

In Poland, which has received almost €2 billion already this year, average farm revenue is on its way to doubling from 2004 to 2009.

"The image of the Polish peasant using a horse and plough in his field - it still exists maybe in isolated mountain foothills - but that's the past. The vast majority of farms in Poland are up to European standards," Wiktor Szmulewicz of Poland's National Council of Agricultural Chambers told AFP.

EU opens case against Germany over farm aid

The EU commission on Tuesday decided to open a case against Germany after the southern region of Bavaria refused to disclose the names of EU farm aid beneficiaries, as required by the bloc's regulations.

EU hesitates to back France over US tariff threat

France has passed a new tax on tech companies that will affect US global giants like Facebook. Donald Trump has threatened retaliatory tariffs over it. The EU commission says it will "coordinate closely with French" on the next steps.

EU banks more vulnerable to shocks than feared

Eurozone banks, such as Deutsche Bank, might be much more vulnerable to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis than EU "stress-tests" have said, according to a new audit.

News in Brief

  1. AKK to boost Bundeswehr budget to Nato target
  2. Police arrest 25 after Polish LGBT-march attack
  3. Ukrainian president's party tops parliament election
  4. EU interior ministers to meet in Paris on migration
  5. Schinas nominated as Greek commissioner
  6. Sea-Watch captain hopes for change in EU migrant rules
  7. Russia willing to join EU payment scheme on Iran deal
  8. Commission fines US chipmaker for second time

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. As Johnson set to become PM, ministers pledge to resign
  2. Poland's PiS prepares 'failsafe' for October election
  3. Abortion Wars
  4. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  5. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  6. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  7. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  8. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us