15th Nov 2019

EU opens case against Germany over farm aid

  • Bavarian farmers receiving EU money are reluctant follow the bloc's transparency rules (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission on Tuesday decided to take legal action 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.

Germany already missed a deadline on 30 April, when all member states were required to publish online the details of those receiving EU farm subsidies. While the federal government did publish the data available to them on Tuesday, the state of Bavaria – home to a number of important farm and agricultural industries - refused to disclose the information, citing privacy issues.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"Bavaria's decision is incomprehensible and I will now take steps to begin an infringement procedure," EU commissioner for agriculture Mariann Fischer Boel said in a statement.

The so-called infringement procedure, opened whenever a member state is in breach of EU law, can take several years and be dropped whenever the country remedies the situation. If it doesn't, the case is referred to European Court of Justice, which can apply sanctions to the country in question.

"The legal situation is clear. Germany is obliged to publish the details of beneficiaries of the common agricultural policy for the whole country. Every other member state has done so. This is taxpayers' money, so it is very important that people know where it is being spent. Transparency should also improve the management of these funds, by reinforcing public control of how the money is used," Ms Boel stressed.

Yet German farmers have resisted pressure from Brussels for the data to be released, challenging the regulation in national courts on the grounds that it violates their privacy.

"We don't want to put information on the internet that possibly can't be put on the internet like that," said Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer in Munich on Tuesday.

The EU executive dismissed these claims, noting that Germany had voted in favour of this regulation.

"Questions related to data protection were taken into consideration during the development of the transparency legislation. It requires member states to inform the beneficiaries that their data will be made public and that they enjoy the rights accorded to them by EU data protection rules, thus ensuring that the system complies with the requirements of data protection," the commission statement reads.

The new regulation was criticised by journalists and transparency advocacy groups concerned about the misuse of EU agricultural subsidies channelled rather to agribusiness multinationals and royalty than regular farmers.

The data released by the German federal government seems to confirm these fears: multinationals, big sugar producers, dairy and poultry farms were among the biggest recipients of the subsidies. But also names such as Lufthansa and the energy company RWE, Spiegel Online reports.

Top of the list was the sugar company Sudzucker which received €34.4 million last year, followed by the German branch of the biggest European poultry company, Doux, dairy producer Campina, chocolate maker Storck and meat company Tonnies.

Big farms in eastern Germany were the biggest recipients of direct farm aid, but this may change once Bavaria decides to publish the names of its sponsored agricultural businesses.

Electoral gaming also plays a role, as the ruling Bavarian Christian-Social Union, the sister party of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, is struggling to win over voters ahead of the upcoming general elections.

The federal minister for agriculture, Ilse Aigner, is a CSU member and had to give in to pressure from her own region in blocking the publication of farm-aid beneficiaries. An agreement was then reached between all German states and the federal government to publish the data mid-June, but Bavaria still refused to agree.

Royals and multinationals raking in EU farm aid

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.

Germany dodges disclosure of EU farm funds

The European Commission on Thursday expressed its surprise at Germany's decision not to disclose the names of the farmers receiving EU aid, as every member state is required to do by 30 April.


A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.


A tourist's guide to EU-funded Amsterdam

When it comes to projects paid for by EU regional funds, most people think of roads in Romania or bridges in Bulgaria. But richer regions also receive money. EUobserver takes you on a tour of selected projects in Amsterdam.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election


A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.


The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  2. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  3. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  4. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  5. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  6. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  7. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  8. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us