EU Must Reform Farmland Cheating

The EU says that they want to reform how taxpayers’ money is distributed from rich countries to poorer counties like Poland, Hungary, etc. The EU wants to introduce conditions on the right to receive such grants to avoid corruption and to ensure that the rule of law is upheld in the manner that Europe understands – meaning that we have a free press, an independent judiciary, and that all people are equal before the law. 

This paper has regularly noted that the EU must reform to retain the trust of taxpayers – corruption   within the EU appears to flourish in many corners of Europe because the EU is not careful in controlling how grant money is being used and by whom.

The Rule of Law condition is now being considered inside the EU, but progress is slow and the law is being watered down, and that is not acceptable. If a member state does not adhere to the rule of law then grants should be withheld. Why should Nordic countries pay money to people who abuse our trust?

Now a second major problem is beginning to reach the light of day. The “Common Agricultural Policy” (CAP) is aimed at helping European agricultural become competitive and stronger in this global world, but that is not happening.

The CAP is certainly helping many small and medium-sized farmers to earn a decent living but now we can see in plain sight that the system is being used by powerful politicians in many countries to benefit their own pockets and those of their friends.

CAP is being used by powerful politicians in many countries to benefit their own pockets and those of their friends.

The New York Times has just published a long article (NYT 4.11.2019) on the misuse of a huge amount of These funds inside the EU:

The Money Farmers: How Oligarchs and Populists Milk the E.U. for Millions

The European Union spends $65 billion a year subsidizing agriculture. But a chunk of that money emboldens strongmen, enriches politicians and finances corrupt dealing.”

The article sets out well documented cases:

“Every year, the 28-country bloc pays out $65 billion in farm subsidies intended to support farmers around the Continent and keep rural communities alive. But across Hungary and much of Central and Eastern Europe, the bulk goes to a connected and powerful few. The prime minister of the Czech Republic collected tens of millions of dollars in subsidies just last year. Subsidies have underwritten Mafia-style land grabs in Slovakia and Bulgaria.”

The NYT article could be seen as an American smear on European farming but that is certainly not the case. The European Parliament itself ordered a study in 2015 from their own people and the report detailed a growing amount of farmland grabbing. They noted that although this was a limited phenomenon, it was indeed increrasing. However, EU officials dismissed recommendations to tighten farm-subsidy rules as a safeguard against Central and Eastern European land grabbing. The EU Parliament also rejected a bill banning politicians from benefiting from the subsidies they administer.

The NYT’s article details the huge CAP payments that have been received by the Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, some family members and close colleagues as a result of securing directly and indirectly farmland, at what appears to be low prices through auctions that have not been fully transparent. 

Given that the total CAP budget is some €65 billion it is clearly time for drastic reform.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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