EC vows to capture misspent CAP millions

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Common agricultural policy, European union

The EC has vowed to recover €263.5 million of unduly spent CAP
money from member states.

The reclamation follows the adoption of a decision adopted by the European Commission, and is the latest in a series of such requests.

The EC said that the money would be recovered because of inadequate control procedures or non-compliance with EU rules on agricultural expenditure.

Member States are responsible for paying out and checking expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the Commission is required to ensure that Member States have made correct use of the funds.

"This procedure has proved very successful in recovering money that has not been spent correctly,"​ said commissioner for agriculture and rural development Mariann Fischer Boel.

"This is taxpayers' money and we have to ensure effective controls on how it is used. We have made great strides in improving our controls and these efforts will continue in the future."

The CAP has come under close scrutiny of late. The recent disclosure that 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', has angered some who see the CAP as a monumental waste of money.

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).

Such figures suggest that the huge agricultural subsidies the EU has become infamous for remain rigidly in place, with little possibility of reduction. The Common Agricultural Policy still makes up the biggest share of EU legislation.

But EC enterprise and industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen said the EC recognised the need for change, and insisted that the CAP has always been capable of modernising.

"Our objective is to eliminate excessive bureaucracy in the Common Agricultural Policy,"​ he said. " We are striving to have modern and simple European legislation and we will only achieve this if the Common Agricultural Policy is also on board."

Verheugen's statement came during a recent two-day conference in Brussels on simplifying the Common Agricultural Policy.

Main financial corrections

Under this latest decision, the 23rd since the 1995 reform of the system for recovering unduly spent CAP money, funds will be recovered from Germany, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Luxemburg, Netherlands and Portugal.

The most significant individual corrections are:

€163.7 million charged to Greece because the register of olive cultivation has not been set up thus the check on crop declarations was inoperative, and on the spot checks were carried out inadequately.

€37.4 million charged to Greece for missing system allowing the cross-checks between the system of production aid for cotton with the integrated administration and control system, late on the spot checks, and for no penalties applied where discrepancies found in area checks.

€30.9 million charged to Greece because aid for the production of grape for drying was granted for overestimated area; security of the database for the plots was inadequate; checks on diversion of any of the fresh grapes, before drying, to other uses was missing.

€11.3 million charged to Spain concerning fruit and vegetable withdrawal operations for missing control on environmental impact of composting, controls did not reach the final use of the freely distributed product, unsatisfactory quality of controls carried out on withdrawn produce.

€5.6 million charged to Netherlands because expenditure for projects approved under an Objective 5A programme of EAGGF-Guidance section was claimed under the guarantee section of the EAGGF.

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