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Court of Auditors removes the fig leaf from CAP subsidies


09 Dec 2008


Health & Consumers

BirdLife welcomes new report of Court of Auditors criticising the effectiveness of cross compliance

Brussels, 9 December 2008 –BirdLife International [1] welcomed the report [2] by the EU Court of Auditors which was published today on the effectiveness of cross compliance. The NGO regrets however that the report, which had been made available to Commission and Member States in early 2008 and finalised last October, was only made public nearly a month after the decision on the CAP Health check was taken.

Based on the results of this audit, the main conclusions of the Court of Auditors were that the system providing the main justification for the EU’s massive handout to farmers is broken: Member States do not fulfil their responsibility to translate all the cross-compliance standards into obligations applicable at farm level and fail to implement effective control and sanction systems. The European Commission’s performance on monitoring the effectiveness of cross-compliance, or on ensuring Member States actually follow the rules is weak, according to the audit, and suffers in particular from the absence of performance indicators and baseline levels.

Following the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2003, most CAP funding is now spent on the Single Farm Payment, an individual entitlement whereby a farmer receives a yearly payment on his land, usually based on past levels of production related subsides. Cross compliance is the key mechanism underpinning and justifying these payments. Farmers are required to respect some basic legislation and good practice standards for the environment, public health and animal welfare, and payments may be reduced if the beneficiaries have not respected them.

Ariel Brunner, EU Agriculture Policy Officer at BirdLife International commented on the report: ”Cross compliance is offered as the main justification for maintaining huge untargeted and unfairly distributed payments to farmers. BirdLife has been denouncing for the last 3 years the fact that in most Member States cross compliance is little ore than window dressing but both the Commission and national governments have kept pretending that all is well.

This Court report finally rips the veil of misinformation and shows how EU taxpayers are being systematically deceived”.In its conclusions, fully shared by BirdLife, the Court of Auditors underlines the importance of cross-compliance as a vital element of the CAP but stresses that the way it is currently managed by the Commission and implemented by the Member States is not effective.

The Court gives several recommendations to the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the Member states in order to amend these deep flaws:

Cross-compliance objectives  must be set out much more clearly in the Council regulation

Effective controls must be carried out and severe contraventions must be
appropriately punished Payment reductions should be proportional to or dependent on the seriousness of the breach of cross compliance by the farmer

Ensure that rural development payments only compensate measures going beyond the baseline defined by cross compliance.

The system must be monitored for effectiveness and continually improved.

Bureaucratic burden on farmers and Member States must be reduced, but not by watering down the rules and being lenient on their implementation.

Ariel Brunner commented: “We were expecting the “CAP Health Check” to take an honest look at the failings of the current system but have been served another business as usual response. It is a pity that the Health Check has been decided without taking into consideration the Court Report that was long expected and whose content was fully available to the Commission and Member States. We can only hope that as the debate moves to the EU Budget review, decisions will be taken on the basis of more facts and less rhetoric. The Court Report is a good starting point.”


For more information, please contact:
Herlinde Herpoel, Media and Communication Manager at BirdLife International -
Tel: +32 494 542 844,

Ariel Brunner, EU Agriculture Policy Officer of BirdLife International,
Tel: +32 2 280 08 30,