€282.6 billion in payments to 22966059 recipients,
including lots of fresh payments from 2013
e.g. Nestle or Windsor

Let The Sunshine In

23 September 2011.

The European Union spends around €55 billion a year on farm subsidies. That’s 40 percent of its entire budget.

With sums like that, we think you have the right to know who gets paid what, and why. It’s why we founded this website nearly 6 years ago.

Transparency really matters.

Besides contributing to greater public accountability and legitimacy, it’s a valuable safeguard against waste, fraud and abuse of EU funds.

To put it bluntly, transparency deters potential fraudsters and helps to prevent corruption.

To take just one example, the disclosure of farm subsidy data to investigative reporters last year resulted in a criminal investigation of the former Bulgarian farms minister, whose family were among the country’s top recipients.

As the saying goes, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Transparency also enables citizens to find out more about how the baffling common agricultural policy (CAP) really works and how to make it better.

Why individual information matters

We think it’s essential for the public to know who benefits from payments under the CAP – and only individual payment information, indicating a beneficiary’s name and geographical location, can facilitate this.

Don’t you think it’s important to know whether CAP beneficiaries are large multinational companies or small family farms?

Or whether this €55 billion a year policy is concentrating aid in Europe’s wealthiest or least advantaged regions?

Or whether the policy is 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 bottom line is – you’re entitled to know why that money was paid. And what exactly the CAP is doing in your own neighbourhood.

Why now?

Late last year the European Court of Justice ruled that the current system of publishing farm subsidy data is ‘invalid’.

Right now, the European Commission is drafting new rules. We see this as an opportunity to increase the transparency and accountability of the CAP in a way that:

• improves public oversight of CAP spending • does a better job at explaining who was paid what, and why • equips us with the information necessary to engage in a constructive, well-informed public debate about the future of the CAP

Out with the old, in with the new…

We think it’s time to sweep out the old transparency rules and introduce some new ones:

Old rule: Previous transparency rules required every EU member state to publish the data in the form of a website with a search tool. This was a costly exercise for governments and in many ways made it harder for the public to access the data.

New rule: 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.

Old rule: 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.

New rule: 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.

How you can help

We’ve agreed a common position on a future transparency regime for the common agricultural policy.

We’ve submitted that common position to EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş, who is responsible for implementing the European Transparency Initiative in relation to the CAP.

You can read the letter and, if you agree, you can add your name to the growing list of signatories by emailing team@farmsubsidy.org.

Even better, you can write to Commissioner Ciolos himself, explaining why you support transparency in the CAP. His email is dacian.ciolos@ec.europa.eu.