Tuesday, April 28, 2009

European Union Farm Subsidies of $55 Billion are 43% of EU Budget : Germany Refuses to Name Aid Recipients on Data Protection Grounds

Feudalism is alive and well in Europe. It just has a very modern form of expression.

The really big money in the European Union financial scheme of things changes hands feudally between the lowly taxpayers and vested agricultural interests, mostly big agribusiness and large landowners. Just as in the United States, where the wealthiest factions of the country have been milking the economy for all it is worth, a similar process is at work in the European Union in transferring more and more money into the hands of those who already have it.

As reported by Valentina Pop at EUObserver, European Union farm subsidies currently total $55 billion per year, which accounts for 43% of the entire EU budget. Since EU budget funds come from the EU Member States in the form of a flat tax of ca. 1% of GDP, it is in fact the little guys who are once again paying the bill.

This can be seen from Richard Baldwin's analysis of agricultural aid to the UK in Who finances the Queen’s CAP payments? The CAP as a dooH niboR scheme [i.e. taking from the poor and giving to the rich in a reverse of Robin Hood, which is dooH niboR backwards - see Paul Krugman on Dooh Nibor Economics].

Baldwin may be writing in the year 2005 in The royalty of CAP madness, but nothing has changed in the intervening years. As written February 9, 2008 by Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor at the Independent in 'Fat cats' benefit from EU farming subsidies:

"The Queen and one of the richest men in London, the Duke of Westminster, are among the biggest winners from this year's payment of farm subsidies.

The Duke, who owns most of Mayfair and also Grosvenor Farms Limited, was paid £562,786, while the Duke of Marlborough, a member of the Churchill family, was paid £452,944 in subsidy for the Blenheim Farm Partnership based in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

One of the largest payments went to the Mormon Church, which has become one of the biggest foreign landowners in English farming following a payment of £1.59m from the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Queen's Sandringham Farms were paid £408,970 in subsidies. Half of the land is let to tenants and the rest is turned over to two studs for her racehorses, forestry and fruit farms which produce apples and juice for the Windsor farm shop."

The UK Parliament has also provided interesting figures. The House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 27 Jan 2009 (pt 0010) show the following top 10 recipients in the UK of EU farm aid:

"Jane Kennedy [holding answer 5 February 2009]: The following table lists the 10 individuals and/or organisations that received the highest subsidies available under all schemes under the common agricultural policy for the European financial year 2008, which runs from 16 October 2007 to 15 October 2008.

Individual/organisations
£

K G Growers

3,170,052.01

G's Growers

2,908,857.66

Farmcare Limited

2,641,415.83

The Berryworld Producer Organisation

1,943,996,51

Strutt and Parker Limited

1,493,340.64

The National Trust

1,348,898.74

Sir Richard Suttons Settled Estate

1,264,889.52

Lilburn Estates Farming Partnership

1,215,740.15

Blankley Estates Ltd

1,189,030.63

Fruition Producer Organisation Limited

1,186,619.38

"
We found the following information about these organizations online:
Of course, none of these companies is to be blamed for obtaining subsidies if the EU laws permit them to do so. The fault is to be sought in Brussels, not in London, through whose incompetence billions of euros are being funneled into the bank accounts of those who least need the money.

As Valentina Pop now writes at Germany dodges disclosure of EU farm funds, to keep these kinds of payments to the rich out of the public eye, Germany has now ignored an EU law requiring full agricultural subsidy disclosure and has refused to name the German aid recipients on the grounds of "data protection", which is of course absolutely absurd from every possible legal viewpoint. As EUObserver writes:

"Claiming data protection issues, German agriculture minister Ilse Aigner on Wednesday recommended: "temporarily suspending the publication of further information on the beneficiaries of agricultural funding." Germany is the only country to have done so."

Aigner is by profession a trained radio and TV technician who appears to us intellectually and by educational background to be totally out of her league in her ministerial post. What does Aigner know about law? One of the tragedies of our media age is that "pretty faces" such as Aigner are elevated into top political positions where they wreak havoc due to their lack of qualifications.

In fact, as we already know from a November 2007 Stern article Agrarsubventionen: Volle Töpfe für die Großen, the lion's share of EU agricultural CAP subsidies to Germany is going into the pockets of the large agribusiness concerns and the old landholding gentry, just as in the UK.
The idea that the names of those who are plundering the European Union economy should be kept secret is a travesty, as pointed out by Jack Thuston in the EUObserver article by Pop:

"This is a disgrace. The handful of politicians and judges in Germany who are opposing transparency are acting as the puppets of big agri-business and wealthy landowners, who's only interest is to keep the German people in the dark about the reality of farm subsidies," Jack Thuston, co-founder of www.farmsubsidy.org, the journalist-launched initiative behind the EU requirement, said in a statement.

He also pointed to the fact that the commission can release the names of the beneficiaries if a member state dodged this requirement, because the EU executive does have this data on file.

"Farmsubsidy.org originally proposed that the commission publish the information in one single dataset, partly because it would be simpler, less bureaucratic and less fragmented, and partly in anticipation that some member states would backslide from their obligations, as Germany is now doing. Unfortunately the commission chose to pass the responsibility down to member states," he added.

Also on Friday, a court in Munster ruled that the publication of names, addresses and amounts of EU funding received by farmers complies with German legislation. The ruling cannot be challenged further."

It is quite clear in this quarter that the names must be revealed. It will now be interesting to see who does the revealing and what consequences it will have. With Ministers like Aigner, Merkel does not need enemies - they are in her own cabinet.

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