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Civil society common position on farm subsidy transparency

26 January 2011.


Following the European Court of Justice ruling, the farmsubsidy.org network has agreed a common position on a future transparency regime for the common agricultural policy. We have submitted the common position to EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş, who is responsible for implementing the European Transparency Initiative in relation to the CAP. Read the letter here.

European Civil Society Joint Position: Transparency of End Beneficiaries of CAP Payments

In November 2010, the European Court of Justice deemed the EU rules requiring the publication of end beneficiaries of common agricultural policy funds to be partially invalid. The ruling presents an opportunity to increase the transparency and accountability of the common agricultural policy (CAP) and to equip civil society with the information necessary to engage in a constructive, well-informed public debate about the future of a policy that accounts for forty per cent of the EU’s budget.

In line with the objectives of the European Transparency Initiative, we call on the Council and Commission to agree new regulations to require the publication of information on beneficiaries of CAP funds in a way that improves public oversight of public expenditure and does a better job at explaining who was paid what, and why. As well as contributing to greater public accountability and legitimacy, budget transparency is a powerful safeguard against waste, fraud and abuse of EU funds.

Individual payment information, indicating beneficiary name and geographical location is essential for the public to know who benefits from payments under the CAP. Are the beneficiaries large multinational companies or small family farms? Is the policy concentrating aid in Europe’s wealthiest or least advantaged regions? Is the policy contributing to conservation or over-exploitation of natural resources? Equally important is information about the nature of the measures under which payments are made. Explaining who got what is only half the story. The public is entitled to know why the money was paid.

Previous transparency rules required every Member State to publish the data in the form of a website with a search tool. This was a costly exercise and in many ways made it harder for the public to access the data. We advocate the publication of data in a simple, machine readable data format (CSV, XML, RDF or similar), in line with best practice in open government data. If member state governments wish to publish the data using a website search tool as well, they should be free to do so, and this decision can be taken by Member States.

Under the previous transparency rules, only four data fields were required to be published: beneficiary name, amount, payment type (three broad categories) and municipality/postcode. As the European Court of Justice has ruled, this limited data was insufficient to give the public a real understanding of the policy.

To maximise transparency and accountability and to minimise administrative burdens, the simplest way of publishing the data is for each Member State to publish a public version of the ‘matrix files’ that they are already required to compile and submit to the Commission for audit purposes by 1 February each year. The table below sets out the most important data fields that should be included in this public version.

Signatories and affiliations

Jack Thurston, Nils Mulvad, Brigitte Alfter - farmsubsidy.org / EU Transparency

Trees Robijns - BirdLife International

Kirtana Chandrasekaran - Friends of the Earth International

Celsa Peiteado Morales - WWF España

Ana Carricondo - SEO/BirdLife in Spain

Jana Mittermaier - Transparency International Liaison Office to the EU

Victoria Anderica Caffarena - Access Info Europe

Jonathan Gray - Open Knowledge Foundation

Tim Grabiel - Client Earth

Adrian Mogos - Jurnalul National & Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism

Add your name to this list by emailing team@farmsubsidy.org