Friday, 8 May 2009

Italy a nest of EU 'farm-subsidy millionaires'

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Companies in Italy received the biggest single payments from the EU’s farm subsidies in 2008, with 180 of them provided with more than a million euros, a study released on Thursday (7 May) showed.

Sugar producers Italia Zuccheri and Eridania Sadam were also the only two companies winning more than a €100 million each under the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), being awarded €139.8 and €125.3 million respectively, according to a study by – a cross-border network of journalists, reasearchers and campaigners pushing for more transparency in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

The only non-Italian company to rank among the top five “farm-subsidy millionaires” was Ireland’s Greencore Group – a manufacturer and supplier of food and food ingredients – which came fourth, having received €83.4 million.

Some 165 companies in Spain, 47 in the Netherlands, 38 in Portugal, 22 in Belgium, 21 in the UK and 12 in both Bulgaria and Romania received more than a million euros.

In France – the top overall beneficiary of the CAP, with €10.4 out of the total €55 billion – 142 companies were granted more than a million.

The Doux Group, which sells chicken products worldwide, was the biggest single recipient in the country, with €62.8 million and coming sixth in the overall millionaire ranking.

Altogether, the 707 millionaires received between five and 10 percent of the total amount of the CAP in 2008, said co-founder Nils Mulvad at a press conference in Brussels. He stressed however that full data from only 18 member states had been taken into account at this stage.

Data from Cyprus, Germany, the Netherlands and Slovakia has not been included because these countries “have not yet published data on farm subsidy beneficiaries or have made it very difficult to access the data they have published,” the organisation said.

It explained that information from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland would be added to the study as soon as the conversion of the sums into euros is finalised.

Most countries breaching the rules

The research also included an evaluation of member states’ transposition of the European Commission’s transparency rules that oblige governments to disclose information on farm funds recipients.

Member states had until 30 April to publish information on the beneficiaries of farm subsidies for 2008, but the study found that only eight countries had fully complied with the rules.

Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Romania, Slovenia and the UK were the only countries to implement the commission’s transparency law well.

Ten countries, including Spain and Ireland, but also a number of new member states such as Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia and Bulgaria, were “clearly in breach of the regulations.”

Eight others – France, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Sweden – presented “important deficiencies, likely to be in breach of the regulations.”

The organisation cited Hungary, Ireland and the Netherlands as being among a number of countries “engaging in apparent deliberate obfuscation of their websites,” saying that Hungary had presented its data in a “totally unstructured” PDF document of more than 13,000 pages.

Poland was also cited as “one bad example” publishing only the names of the person applying for the subsidies and not of the companies, while the Netherlands was criticised for failing to provide a total amount for each recipient, making it difficult to find out how much a particular Dutch company has received.

Germany bashed

Germany is the only member state refusing to publish its figures, arguing that it has legal constraints due to data protection laws in local districts.

But the European Commission has refused to give Berlin an extension and has said it would start infringement procedures against the country if it does not fall into line.

“All 27 agreed on [the rules] and took this obligation … You take an obligation, you have to stick to it. It is that simple,” said Kristian Schmidt, deputy head of EU anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas’ cabinet.

He added the commission was “quite disappointed” by Germany’s behaviour and its “last-minute second thoughts.”

This aricle first appeared on EU Observer.