Monday

4th Dec 2023

Bogus UK farmland received EU farm aid

  • Every EU citizen pays €105 per year to the CAP, of which €80 go into direct payments (Photo: caese)

The European Commission on Tuesday (26 February) fined the United Kingdom €111.7 million for failing to detect bogus farmland.

A number of farmers received direct payments from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on land that was not arable.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Some of the so-called arable "parcels" were instead covered with trees, while buildings carpeted other areas.

The bogus information was handed over to the UK authorities between 2008 and 2010. The authorities are required to cross-check the data but an EU audit found the UK had failed to verify if the CAP funds were properly appropriated.

Unlike other areas of EU spending, member states administer and have complete control over CAP’s direct payment system.

Direct payments account for around €40 billion of the EU’s annual budget and are sourced from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF).

“There are clear rules on how this should be managed and the UK authority didn’t live up to what was required,” Roger Waite, spokesperson for EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos, told this website.

The EAGF is managed by the commission but it is up to the national or regional paying agencies to hand out the money, verify admissibility of claims and ensure compliance with EU rules.

In the UK, agencies in January 2012 gave farmers up to €200 per hectare in EU direct aid.

Member states pay the farmers up front and then the following month claim the money back from Brussels. Brussels then reimburses the amount a month later.

The commission’s €100 million penalty will be deducted from the UK’s upcoming reimbursement bill.

“If we need to spread it over several months, we do,” said Waite.

Waite said the lax controls by national authorities became more common when in 2005 the direct payment system was changed, following the 2003 reforms.

Funds will also be recovered from 21 other member states for a total of €414 million of CAP expenditure.

The UK tops the list with Italy coming in at a distant second with a €48.2 million fine and Spain at €40.6 million.

The fines are based on a flat-rate penalty of around 1 or 2 percent depending on the seriousness of the charge. Higher penalty rates are given for repeat offenders.

The lack of transparency over payouts is also an issue.

The pro-transparency group Farmsubsidy.org found that fewer than one in ten beneficiaries of EU farm subsidies were disclosed in 2012.

Member states are supposed to publish the beneficiaries of CAP on websites but seldom do in practice.

Instead, some publish incorrect data while others like Ireland, France, Italy and the Netherlands have “systems specifically designed to thwart access to the data.”

The group says transparency was delivered a blow when the Court of Justice ruled in 2012 against full disclosure due to privacy issues.

MEPs can unpick EU farm subsidies deal

Agreement on EU farm subsidies remains far from clear, after the European Commission said the European Parliament could unpick the deal reached last week at the EU budget summit

Orban's sovereignty bill seen as fresh attack on rule of law

Hungary's new sovereignty law has been criticised by the opposition as 'another dark milestone' for the country's democratic values and the rule of law — and it could bring yet another clash between Budapest and Brussels.

Analysis

Why Spain's amnesty deal with Catalans is source of resentment

Spain's new amnesty law for Catalan separatists has sparked protests across the country, fueling concerns about the rule of law, judicial independence, and accountability. But why is the bill so problematic? And who opposes it?

Analysis

How Wilders' Dutch extremism goes way beyond Islamophobia

Without losing sight of his pervasive Islamophobia, it is essential to note Geert Wilders' far-right extremism extends to other issues that could drastically alter the nature of Dutch politics — and end its often constructive role in advancing EU policies.

Latest News

  1. COP28 warned over-relying on carbon capture costs €27 trillion
  2. Optimising Alzheimer's disease health care pathways across Europe
  3. Georgian far-right leader laughs off potential EU sanctions
  4. The EU's U-turn on caged farm animals — explained
  5. EU-China summit and migration files in focus This WEEK
  6. COP28 debates climate finance amid inflated accounting 'mess'
  7. Why EU's €18m for Israel undermines peace
  8. Israel's EU ambassador: 'No clean way to do this operation'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  3. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  4. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?
  5. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  6. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us