It’s no wonder that the Commission suppressed the Court of Auditors report on cross compliance for as long as it could – the report is damning and undermines the Commission’s case for the legitimacy of EU farm subsidies.
Speaking in 2005, Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel explained how she sees cross compliance in relation nearly 40 billion euros of public expenditure on payments to farmers:
“I would emphasise that decoupled payments are not “money for nothing”. To get the cheque in the post, a farmer has to respect a demanding range of standards related to the environment and animal welfare. We call this system “cross-compliance”.”
Today’s report by the Court shows that such a view is at best wishful thinking and at worst deliberately deceitful. Cross compliance does not represent a ‘demanding range of standards’ at all.
It should be stressed that this study is the biggest and most comprehensive to date. The Court says that it “carried out an audit in 2008 of the cross-compliance policy at the Commission and in seven Member States representing the diversity of agriculture across Europe”.
The top line conclusion pulls no punches:
“the objectives of this policy have not been defined in a specific, measurable, relevant, and realistic way, and that at farm level many obligations are still only for form’s sake and therefore have little chance of leading to the expected changes, whether reducing the size of payments or modifying farming practices.”
Senior officials at the Court are reported to be fuming at the suppression of the report until after the CAP health check was concluded. They should rest assured that their work has not been in vain: this report will play a big part in the discussions of the future of the CAP as part of the EU budget review.