Saturday

10th Dec 2016

Commission wants more EU farm aid transparency

  • The European Commission wants member states to publish the names of EU farm recipients (Photo: freefotouk)

The European Commission adopted rules on Tuesday (25 September) to increase transparency on farmers who receive billions in EU subsidies every year.

"We not only have to reform the CAP [common agricultural policy] to make it easier to understand but we also need to make it absolutely transparent," EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos told reporters in Brussels.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The new rules require member states to publish the first and last names of beneficiaries as well as the reasons why they obtain the funds. The aim, says the commission, is to better protect the EU coffer from fraud.

CAP makes up a third of the EU budget, with farmers and agricultural-related programmes receiving some €55 billion each year. The money is supposed to help rural development and guarantee EU food security.

Member states were already required to publish some data online by April every year. But pro-transparency groups like farmsubsidy.org in the past found that many regularly fail to provide comprehensive details on how the money is spent, who receives it, and why.

The NGO in May ranked Luxembourg the least transparent, while others, such as Ireland, France, Italy and the Netherlands have created online databases which are extremely hard to navigate.

Stories of massive fraud abound, with individuals receiving subsidies for farms that do not exist.

Olaf, the EU's anti-fraud office, recovered €691 million in stolen funds from the EU budget in 2011, of which €524.7 million had been siphoned off from structural funds. Around €113.7 million was drawn from customs and another €34 million from EU agricultural subsidies.

Ciolos said the revised rules will compel national authorities to reveal both direct aid to farmers and funding for rural development programmes.

The new rules will not apply to small farmers or small land holdings in order to safeguard personal privacy, however. The exception follows a November 2010 judgement by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on privacy for natural persons which prompted the commission to suspend the publication of recipients' names.

The commission says the new rules do not infringe the judgement because they are "centred on the need for public control over the use of European agricultural funds."

Bulgaria lets conmen off the hook

For his part, Peter Keller, from the German customs service, on Monday told the European Parliament's organised crime committee that he has been unable to fully bring to justice the perpetrators in a huge EU-fund-fraud case, despite overwhelming evidence.

Investigators in 2008 uncovered a number of German machine manufacturers working with Bulgarian buyers to steal EU funds, Keller said.

The cases involved the so-called "Sapard" programme - an EU initiative worth about €100 million a year which aims to help upgrade agricultural sectors in central and eastern member states.

The scam centred around Bulgarian food processing companies which bought German-made equipment and claimed back EU subsidies from Sapard officials - a decentralised administration which is only audited "ex-post" by the EU.

Sellers and buyers colluded to bump up the list price on machines and Sapard paid out EU cash based on the invoices.

The firms involved then redistributed the overpayments and the EU money via brokers and secret accounts.

Keller said the affair cost the EU €7.8 million, but its exposure prevented the loss of another €68 million.

He secured convictions for the German companies involved, but Bulgarian prosecutors have suspended investigations. "These are people who have been proven to have defrauded others ... It is completely incomprehensible why Bulgaria has not produced any accusation of a legal nature," he said.

News in Brief

  1. Council of Europe critical of Turkey emergency laws
  2. Italian opposition presses for anti-euro referendum
  3. Danish MP wants warning shots fired to deter migrants
  4. Defected Turkish officers to remain in Greece
  5. Most child asylum seekers are adults, says Denmark
  6. No school for children of 'illegal' migrants, says Le Pen
  7. Ombudsman slams EU Commission on tobacco lobbying
  8. McDonald's moves fiscal HQ to UK following tax probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Use Bioenergy Coming From Forests in a Sustainable Way?
  2. Counter BalanceReport Reveals Corrupt but Legal Practices in Development Finance
  3. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debated on the Future of the EU at the Winter Mingle
  4. ACCASets Out Fifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  5. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  6. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  7. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  9. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  10. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  11. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  12. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First