In December 2006 European Union heads of government agreed a new Financial Regulation, the legal text that sets out the rules for the EU budget. The new Financial Regulation contains new requirements on the public disclosure of end beneficiaries of EU funds. The first significant fruits of the new budget transparency law are due by 30 September 2008, the deadline set out in the implementing regulations relating to expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy. By this date each member state is obliged to provide a web-based search tool detailing all end beneficiaries of EU funds spent under rural development programmes between 1 January 2007 and 14 October 2007 (sometimes referred to as the second pillar of the CAP).
The total amount of expenditure for 2007 is estimated to be around 12 billion euros of EU-funded expenditure and around 8 billion in nationally funded expenditure under co-financing requirements. National and regional rural development plans contain more details of the exact areas of expenditure. Summaries of national and regional rural development programmes are available on the European Commission website and the full plans are available on respective national and regional government websites.
Disclosure of recipients of the main CAP payments (the ‘first pillar’ comprising single farm payments, export subsidies, market interventions etc) is due by April 2009. The French government pushed for the delay until 30 April 2009 during the final negotiations on the revised Financial Regulation.
So far, there have been new websites launched by France, the UK and Ireland. An Austrian site was opened earlier this year. The first prize for government action to thwart transparency goes to Ireland. The website is almost unusable since it requires that searches specify (1) the name and (2) the location of the recipient and (3) the approximate amount of the subsidy payment. I believe this to be in breach of the EU law and have written to the European Commission requesting that action be taken. The Government of the Republic of Ireland should not be allowed to stick two fingers up at the European taxpayers who pay for the CAP and have a right to know how their money is spent.
There is a farmsubsidy.org briefing note which gives some background information on the disclosure of recipients of EU rural development funds.