Kallas wins deal to unveil EU farm subsidy secrets
European Union governments will publish the names of all recipients of the Union’s farm subsidies and how much they receive from 2009 at the latest
The Finnish presidency won agreement from member states’ permanent representatives for full transparency over the end beneficiaries of all EU funds, including the Union’s annual €60 billion spending on farm subsidies, although France will not publish its data until 2009.
The decision represents a major victory for Siim Kallas, the administrative affairs commissioner, who first called for full disclosure of recipients’ names and how much they receive in early 2005. “I’m extremely pleased. This is a big step in a short period,” he told European Voice.
Mariann Fischer Boel, the farming comissioner, welcomed the greater transparency over the recipients of farm payments. “It’s taxpayers’ money and they have the right to know what it’s being spent on,” she said.
The deal forms just one element of a package of changes to the EU’s spending rules, the financial regulation. But finance ministers are expected to endorse the transparency agreement at their 28 November meeting, when they are to approve the entire package.
The changes to the financial regulation also have to be approved by the European Parliament. German centre-right MEP Inge Grässle, who is to draft Parliament’s opinion, said MEPs fully backed the Council of Ministers’ decision which she called an “important milestone for EU subsidies”. “When we have the results we will have a close look at European programmes,” she said, adding that it was important that all member states provided the same information about end recipients.
Jack Thurston of pressure group Farmsubsidy.org, which has been campaigning for disclosure, welcomed the decision but expressed concern about the delay in publishing details and the “wiggle room” member states would have in what information they disclosed. He said it was “bizarre” that the review of all EU spending in 2008-09 would be done before there was full transparency over who receives funds. “The review will be done in the dark,” he said.
Farm spending transparency is expected to increase pressure for reform of EU agricultural policies as around 80% of subsidies is estimated to go to just 20% of farmers and farm businesses. British sugar multinational Tate & Lyle received €480 million in 2004 – the largest single payment in the UK that year.
The deal in Council was reached after Germany dropped its opposition to the initiative in late September and France agreed to back it provided it would only have to start publishing data in 2009 on payments made in the 2008 budget year.
A French official said that the request for the delay was to ensure the government had complete figures, taking account of net balances and advances.
Thirteen states publish some data but several countries including Finland are expected to start providing recipients’ details before 2009. Farmsubsidy.org only gives four countries a ‘good’ rating for disclosure (Denmark, Sweden, Slovenia and the Netherlands) with seven providing partial information, eight providing no information at all and five denying requests for information under national transparency rules.
From European Voice 26 October