Parliament backs plan for more transparency on EU farm spending

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The European Parliament yesterday (11 October) adopted a report on how EU agricultural expenditures could be made more transparent to the public by making information on beneficiaries available online.

The report, drafted by German MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (ALDE), welcomes Commission plans, announced last October, to amend Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) financing rules (EURACTIV 11/10/06). 

The October proposal allows for the publication of information on CAP payments and their beneficiaries, and is in line with the Commission’s wider initiative on transparency. 

More specifically, it aims to tighten the rules on penalties for shortcomings in member states’ control systems for CAP financing. 

In his report, Chatzimarkakis highlighted the issue of accessibility: “We succeeded in including the publication of the beneficiaries on the internet and not only in national offline registers. But also those who ask for this information will have to identify themselves. In dialogue with the EU data protection supervisor, we developed guidelines on how to publish data and links between all national websites to facilitate access and comparison across member states.” 

Moreover, he cautioned that “seeking more transparency should not mean a trade-off between transparency and efficiency, nor increased bureaucracy either.” 

Parliament’s decision follows a Commission proposal, tabled in 2006 and approved by the member states, to publish information on CAP beneficiaries from 2009 (EURACTIV 08/11/06). Under this plan, individual member states will retain full control over the degree of detail offered. 

However, Chatzimarkakis warned: “If transparency would mean only publication of raw figures, it would not help to raise legitimacy. Therefore we ask the member states to provide more information about what the money is used for. This way, publication could become a tool to understand the CAP better.” 

Meanwhile, Parliament also adopted an amendment tabled by Dutch MEP Jan Mulder (ALDE), which challenges a rule stipulating that member states are only liable for the reimbursement of 50% of monies perceived to have been received irregularly. Instead, they demand that member states finance the full amount when funds are irregularly used. 

“It is absolutely absurd that the EU is co-financing when member states fail to do their job,” Mulder said. 

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