Sunday, November 06, 2005

Where does the CAP cash go?

In a letter to European Voice CAP campaigner Terry Wynn MEP points out that little information is made available on who gets the large sums of money spent on CAP. Only Denmark, the UK, Estonia, Sweden and Slovenia (now joined by Belgium) make the information available.

When it is made available, it is quite revealing. Wynn points out that UK figures show that Lincolnshire receives three times more in agricultural subsidies than the north-west of England combined and has only a third of the number of farms. He points out that there is no disclosure of where the money goes in France despite the fact that it receives a quarter of CAP expenditure.

The Belgian payment agency, BIRB, has now posted details of the recepients of CAP money. At the top of the list is the sugar refinery in Tienen which received €91.9 million in 2004. At the bottom is the Sacred Heart pyschiatric hospital in Ypres which received €148.70.

There was considerable political resistance to the publication of the information. The agriculture minister in the federal government is Sabine Laruelle, a Walloon Liberal, who happens to be a former president of the Walloon farmers' union. She said she would not release names and amounts and that what was happening 'leads only to a witch hunt', pointing out that 'People focus on examples such as the Queen of England.'

Meanwhile, Yves Leterme, the Christian Democrat head of the Flemish regional government complained about efforts by commissioners Fischer Boel and Slim Kallas (audit and anti-fraud) to get national governments to disclose who gets what from the CAP regime. Leterme said that if the Commissioners were minded to make statements 'which intrude against our constitutional rights to the protection of privacy, then they had better keep their mouths shut.' However, Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt decided in favour of disclosure.

This is public money and EU citizens are entitled to know where it is going. Publication may also serve as a deterrent to fraud which remains a persistent problem in the CAP.

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