The long and winding road towards transparency in the 55 billion euro a year common agricultural policy passes a major milestone today, the deadline for all member states to begin publishing basic data on who gets what.
Unfortunately for those of us who have fought for transparency for the past decade, the commission’s implementing regulations specify that each member state must maintain its own website where the data is disclosed. We would have preferred central disclosure by the commission, which does hold all the data itself, but that was a battle we lost.
The biggest downside of this decentralised approach is that there are 27 government websites to monitor, and what’s more most of the websites only allow users to access a handful of payment records at a time. I believe that this is in breach of the rules governing transparency and I have raised this with Mr. Hans Barth, the commission official responsible. In the meantime the only way of getting access to all the data is to extract it by programming and running a screen-scraper, which is a time-consuming task.
Next week in Brussels,at the first European Open Data Summit, the farmsubsidy.org team will be doing as much of this scraping as we can. But we need your help.
First, we need people to check the 27 government websites to see if the data has actually been published. (Not all member states are expected to comply and the German farms minister has already announced that she is suspending budget transparency. This is an election year in Germany and allowing citizens to find out who gets what from the CAP is a too much of a political hot potato for the German minister.)
Second, we need help in translating the websites for the purposes of programming the screen scrapers. So if you’d like to help please get in touch – and if you’re in Brussels next Tuesday and Wednesday, come and meet the farmsubsidy.org team and help us make a reality of transparency in the common agricultural policy. You can email me directly jack [at] farmsubsidy [dot] org
To whet your appetite, here is a list of the recipients of more than 250,00 euros in farm subsidies in France in 2008 and here is the list of the Top 500 recipients in the UK in 2008.