Transparency in the CAP may be reduced with a ruling which suggests that EU rules which require member states to publish details of payments to individual farmers may be invalid. An opinion by an ECJ Advocate General is often indicative of the view that the Court itself may take. German farmers had challenged the rules on the grounds that they were an invasion of their privacy.
Advocate General Elinor Sharpston said that the rules were disproportionate and that there were discrepancies in the reasons the European Commission and the European Council had given for needing the legislation. The assumption that farmers consented to disclosure when they applied for subsidies was also open to question on the grounds of whether it was explicit enough.
Reform advocates have used the information to draw attention to the very large sums of money paid under the CAP to big landowners or to food processing companies making use of export subsdies. Farmers' organisations argued that members of the public often confused Single Farm Payments with profits.
How many members of the public have been interested is open to question. The information is not that readily digestible and is not equally available for all member states (in the UK it can be found on the Defra web site). However, when I have looked at information relating to farms in areas I am familiar with (admittedly not a representative sample) I have been surprised by how relatively low the payments have been. They would be higher, however, in areas like East Anglia and Lincolnshire.
Depending on the nature of the final ECJ ruling, the Commission may have to redraft the rules rather than scrap them altogether.