Saturday

25th Feb 2017

UK delays publication of EU farm subsidy details till post-election

  • Sugar companies look set to top the list of CAP recipients for 2009 (Photo: EUobserver)

Britain's civil service has decided to delay the publication of farm subsidy payments until after this Thursday's (6 May) general election. The deadline for publishing the data outlining who received what under the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP) was midnight last Friday.

A message on the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website simply says: "Due to the general election campaign, this website will not be updated with the 2009 figures until after the election."

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.

UK officials said the practice is standard procedure. "It is not appropriate for us to publish this information at this point on the basis that some of the details may refer to people standing for election," Defra spokesman Paul Leat told this website.

"It could be seen to be favouring the ruling party of specific individuals," he added.

Conservative politicians, some of whom are large landowners, usually outdo their Labour and Liberal colleagues when it comes to receiving CAP payments, causing potential embarrassment ahead of the vote.

The European Commission said it was unhappy, however. "The commission is disappointed and is going to write to the British authorities underlining that this is not in line with the directive," said EU agriculture spokesman Roger Waite.

Last year, Germany initially held off from publishing details on who received what under the CAP in 2008, the first year for which the new EU's rules applied. It eventually capitulated in June.

Politicians in the southern state of Bavaria held out for even longer, concerned that payment details could factor into the regional elections being held last September. In the end, it too backed down after the commission started infringement proceedings.

A number of German citizens are currently challenging the legality of the new procedure on the grounds that it contravenes data protection rights. The European Court of Justice is due to rule before the end of this year.

Details of who receives what under the EU's controversial agricultural policy caused a stir last year when it was discovered that some of the largest recipients were businesses and independently wealthy individuals.

One Spanish construction company in northeast Spain, Arids Roma, received €1.59 million in farm subsidies from the European Union, with Queen Elizabeth II of England and Prince Albert II of Monaco also among the largest beneficiaries. CAP spending in 2008 exceeded €50 billion, by far the largest slice of the EU budget.

Analysts have speculated that the decision by UK civil servants may be linked to the expected change of government in the country, with the Conservative party currently holding a narrow lead in opinion polls.

"Perhaps the civil servants are trying to curry favour with their new bosses," suggested Jack Thurston from agricultural watchdog group Farm Subsidy.

French resistance

Mr Thurston is currently holed up with a team of researchers in an office in the Brussels' Port De Namur area, poring over data provided by other member states in an effort to identify possible abuses of the EU policy.

The team use "web-scrapers" to go through the figures, computer software programmes that search the data at a faster rate than is humanly possible.

Despite the UK decision to temporary withhold figures, Mr Thurston says France is one the worst offenders when it comes to the transparency of CAP payments.

Member states are obliged to publish the data on national departmental websites. Some, such as the Czech Republic, choose to publish the data in a single downloadable format, while others require internet users to search by region or name, making it far harder to get an overall picture.

"The French website is proving a little problematic," he said. "You can only get 500 results when you search the page."

Italian and Portuguese data is also difficult to access.

"Some governments want to control the data without giving it easily to third parties. They are following the legislation in theory but not in practice," Mr Thurston added.

Sugar

The group is set to publish its initial findings this Tuesday, concentrating in particular on the bloc's "subsidy millionaires," individuals or businesses who receive over €1 million from the EU policy.

Sugar companies look set to top the list again, with French companies Tereos (€117.9 million) and Saint Louis Sucre (€143.7 million euros) among the top recipients.

EU officials said the sugar sector benefited from special export subsidies in 2009. CAP export aids which enable European exporters to remain competitive on world markets by compensating for the EU's higher prices are blamed by development agencies for stifling agriculture in some of the world's poorest regions.

Focus

Malta to push for LGBTI rights in troubled times

Malta has, in a short space of time, emerged as a champion for LGBTIQ rights. Activists hope the Maltese EU presidency will help to put their rights higher on the EU agenda.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Searching for a voice and a standard bearer

As Britons come to terms with the reality of Brexit many Remainers are now listless, looking for someone to present a viable alternative to Theresa May's dominance

Opinion

The crisis we face in the Lake Chad Basin

With no end in sight to this crisis, humanitarian actors must call for concerted engagement of political, developmental and security actors to help stabilise the region, writes the head of the UN migration agency.

Le Pen wants to 'do away' with the EU

The far-right presidential candidate said that she would create a "Europe of free nations", while taking France out of Nato command and "tie up" Russia to Europe.

Feature

Armenia-Azerbaijan war: Line of contact

“Frontline coffee is the best coffee in the world”, an Armenian lieutenant told EUobserver, with soldiers' morale among their strongest weapons in the war against an oil-rich foe.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Searching for a voice and a standard bearer

As Britons come to terms with the reality of Brexit many Remainers are now listless, looking for someone to present a viable alternative to Theresa May's dominance

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  2. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  5. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  6. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  7. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  8. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  9. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty
  10. CESIEU Not to Revise the Working Time Directive
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAzerbaijan: 76 NGOs Urge the EU to Use President's Visit to Insist on Human Rights Reforms
  12. UNICEFDeadliest Winter for Migrant Children Crossing the Central Mediterranean