The European Commission spent nearly €5bn more on agriculture in 2005 than it did in 2004, according to the 'Allocation of 2005 EU expenditure by Member State' published yesterday.
Furthermore, over 90 per cent - €44.7 billion - of the EU's agriculture spending went to 'old' member states. In fact, every fifth euro in agricultural expenditure went to France in 2005, with 20.7 per cent. France is followed by Germany (13.5 per cent), Spain (13.3 per cent) and Italy (11.4 per cent).
Poland took eighth place (3.2 per cent), with a €1.2 billion increase in agricultural expenditure, to €1.5 billion.
The biggest lump of money (&euro14.82 billion) was spent in Spain; in 2004, the biggest sum ever spent by the EU in one country within a year (€16.36 billion) went to Spain also.
The figures underline the fact that Europe remains tied to huge agricultural subsidies, and explains in part why achieving an agreement to slash subsidies and lower tariff barriers proved so difficult during the Doha round of global trade talks.
These talks collapsed in failure this summer after the big trading blocs were unable to agree to the multilateral abolition of certain unfair trading practices, much to the disappointment of the EU food industry, which had hoped for the creation of a level playing field and enhanced trade opportunities.
The EC has nonetheless looked at ways of cleaning up the amount of money wasted on unnecessary agricultural subsidies. It recently vowed to recover €161.9 million of unduly spent CAP expenditure, and tighten inadequate control procedures on agricultural expenditure.
"This is a vital process in ensuring that taxpayers' money is used properly and that all unduly spent amounts are recovered," said Mariann Fischer Boel, commissioner for agriculture and rural development.
Overall, the European Union budget increased only narrowly in 2005, and commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite said that this reflected a positive year for the EU budget.
"Execution was higher than in recent years due to better advance planning and enhanced monitoring throughout the year; we managed to focus more resources on EU competitiveness, research, growth and jobs," said Grybauskaite.
Generally, the countries that joined the EU in 2004 registered an increase in allocated expenditure from €6.1 billion in 2004 to €9.1 billion in 2005, or 9.5 per cent of the EU total. Poland became the eighth largest recipient of all European expenditure (up from tenth place last year), while Hungary jumped into 15th place, followed by the Czech Republic in the 18th position.
All new Member States received more money from the EU budget in 2005 than they did last year," said Grybauskaite. "They all have the possibility to do better this year, especially in cohesion policy."
As in 2004, the four biggest Member States were the largest contributors to the EU budget in absolute terms. Germany, France, Italy and the UK financed nearly two thirds of the total.