Sunday

24th Mar 2019

EU court strikes down farm aid transparency project

  • Farmers' right to privacy has trumped transparency rules (Photo: European Commission)

In a major blow to transparency campaigners, the European Union's highest court on Tuesday (9 November) ruled that the publication of names and details of individual farmers receiving agricultural aid infringes their right to privacy.

"The obligation to publish the names of natural persons who are beneficiaries of such aid and the exact amounts which they have received constitutes, with regard to the objective of transparency, a disproportionate measure," the court said in a statement.

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

The case was filed by the owners of two farms in Germany - Volker and Markus Schecke and Hartmut Eifert - who objected to the publication of their names, address and the amount of EU farm money received.

Disclosure of all EU farm subsidy beneficiaries became obligatory in 2007, after intense campaigning from transparency groups and journalists uncovering big food companies and royals among the top recipients, instead of the small farmers struggling to get their products on a market dominated by chain retailers.

Germany and Ireland on Tuesday promptly took down the websites listing all the beneficiaries, despite the court ruling only relating to individuals, not companies or associations.

Irish farm groups were enthusiastic about the decision as they have always claimed that publication of these details was a "snooper's charter".

While the two countries have taken down their websites, Farmsubsidy.org, a portal ran by journalists uncovering the stories behind the figures, still has the data available on its own pages, along with a ranking of the top beneficiaries. Dutch dairy company Campina comes out on top, having received €1.6 billion since 1997.

One of their stories, about a Bulgarian junior minister of agriculture, Dimitar Peychev, led to his arrest and criminal investigation. In 2009, the former minister's wife and daughter received over €1.5 million in subsidies from European programmes intended for farming at the same time that he was responsible for distributing money meant for general EU policies.

Farmsubsidy founder Jack Thurston said that although the ruling may "look like a defeat for advocates of budget transparency," the motivation of the court is rather an argument for more transparency. In its argumentation, the European Commission had not included the proper legal basis for disclosing the data.

"This can easily be fixed by redrafting the disclaimer text," Mr Thurston added.

EU on path towards whistleblower protection

EU lawmakers and member states have struck a political deal on the first-ever EU-wide directive on whistleblower protection - following years of big tax-evasion revelations and the laundering of dirty money in European banks.

Germany's CDU lukewarm on Macron's EU vision

Germany's anointed new leader has echoed France in calling for EU reform to combat populism - but with a stronger role for national governments and with little prospect of sharing German wealth.

Exclusive

Sefcovic campaign videos feature fellow commissioners

Maros Sefcovic, commission vice-president in charge of Energy Union, is running to be president of Slovakia. Now two of his fellow EU commissioners have endorsed him - raising questions about their independence.

EU college defends Saudi-style visits, attacks 'sloppy' media

College of Europe rector Jorg Monar says the surplus money made from setting up closed-door meetings between the Saudi government and EU officials, including MEPs, "would barely cover the replacement costs of a beamer in a College seminar room."

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us