EU adopts transparency rules on farm aid

The European Commission adopted rules last week under which details of all recipients of European Union agricultural and rural development payments will be published.

farm biz 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
farm biz 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The European Commission adopted rules last week under which details of all recipients of European Union agricultural and rural development payments will be published. By the end of April 2009, the name, municipality and, where available, postal code of every recipient will be published in a clear, harmonized manner on nationally-managed Web sites with a search tool that enables the public to see how much money each person or company received. Amounts will be broken down into direct payments to farmers and other support measures. For rural development policy, which is co-financed by the EU and the national government, the information will cover both EU and national money. This information will be available from 2009 for every year reporting on the previous financial year and will remain on the Web site for two years from the date of publication. In addition, the European Commission will manage its own Web site that will have links to each national site. A financial regulation, adopted in 2006 set out the principle that member states have to ensure the publication of a list of all recipients of all forms of EU agricultural and rural development funds for each financial year. The commission regulation adopted last week sets out the details of how this publication will be done, after the European Council had agreed on the main elements in November. Each member state will publish the information on a Web site that allows people to search for the beneficiaries by name, municipality, amounts received (and the currency concerned), or a combination of these three criteria, and to extract the information as a single set of data. Member states are required to inform the beneficiaries that their data will be made public and that they enjoy the rights accorded to them by EU data protection rules. This information will be available from April 30 of the year after the money was paid. The publication of data on rural development funds will begin slightly earlier than data for direct farm payments. For all rural development funds spent between January 1 and October 15, 2007, the information will be published by September 30, 2008. Given the different organizational structures across the EU, the member states themselves will decide who will be in charge of setting up and maintaining their national Web site. They can also decide to publish more detailed information. The European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF), set up by Regulation No. 25 of 1962 on the financing of the common agricultural policy, consumes a large part of the general budget of the European Union. The fund's Guarantee Section finances expenditure on the agricultural market organizations, the rural development measures that accompany market support and rural measures outside of Objective 1 regions, certain veterinary expenditures, and information measures relating to the common agricultural policy. The fund is administered by the commission and the member states, cooperating within the EAGGF Committee. The Fund Committee consists of representatives of the member states and of the commission. The member states designate the authorities and bodies empowered to incur expenditure. Paying agencies are approved authorities and bodies of the member states that offer sufficient guarantees so that the admissibility of claims and compliance with Community rules are checked before payment is authorized; and that the payments effected are correctly and fully recorded in the accounts; and the necessary documents are submitted within the time and in the form laid down in Community rules. They must hold supporting documents relating to the payments made and documents showing that the required administrative and physical checks have been carried out. Each member state must forward to the commission an array of information including details of the authorities and bodies it accredits to pay expenditure, where more than one agency is accredited; details of the authority or body responsible for collecting the information to be supplied to the commission and promoting the harmonized application of Community rules; the names, status and acts of accreditation of the paying agencies; and details of the administrative, accounting and internal control conditions under which payments are made relating to the implementation of Community rules within the framework of the common agricultural policy. The paying agencies forward funds to beneficiaries in accordance with Community rules. Only expenditure incurred by accredited paying agencies may be the subject of Community financing. If an unfavorable opinion is issued, the commission forwards it to the Council. In that case, the commission may defer application of the measures that it has adopted for not more than one month from the date they were forwarded to the council. The council, acting by a qualified majority, may approve a different decision within one month. [email protected] The author is the head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov Law Firm.