EU citizens in all member states should soon be able to find out who gets what in terms of farm subsidies, following a decision by Coreper. This may help to create further public pressure for CAP reform.
Ambassadors agreed 'in principle' to open national farm accounts to public scrutiny. However, the decision requires agreement from the European Parliament which hopefully can be obtained by the end of November. It remains unclear whether the Commission or member states will be responsible for publishing the subsidy data, the Commission being reluctant to take responsibility for publishing information it cannot verify.
France is continuing to demand that no subsidy disclosures are made before 2009 when the presidential elections will be safely out of the way. Jack Thuston from the transparency campaign farmsubsidy.org commented, 'It's great news that European governments are endorsing transparency. But it is quite wrong that we should be kept in the dark until 2009, as the French government is reported to be insisting upon. It now falls to elected Members of the European Parliament to stand up for the rights of those they represent. European citizens have a right to know who gets what from the EU and why. Secrecy is bad for European civil society and bad for the reputation of European institutions.'
Even if the public do become indignant at the size of the handouts given to already prosperous farmers, fundamental reform is likely to encounter continying resistance from the Commission. Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has dismissed Defra's reform document as 'incoherent' with 'a complete lack of analysis behind this paper' in an appearance before the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee. When I appeared before the committee, I argued that the paper was a strong one, but the problem was the lack of a political strategy to put it into effect.
Fischer Boel insisted, however, that many farmers would be unable to survive without the direct payments scheme and would start to abandon their land with adverse environmental consequences.
Visit farmsubsidy.org at Subsidies