ARC Exclusive – Auditors Heavily Criticise Commission’s CAP Plans

By ECA building Luxembourg  Euseson, CC BY-SA 3.0

Updated 17.24 CET 31/10/2018

“Its longer-term vision for EU agriculture (taking account of long-term trends for technological, climate, societal and demographic change, etc.) is not apparent” So say the ECA – European Court of Auditors – about the European Commission’s CAP proposals in a damning new report seen by ARC2020.

The “Court of Auditors’ opinion concerning Commission proposals for regulations relating to the Common Agricultural Policy for the post-2020 period” is not in any way the most critical of statements, with phrases of failure and inadequacy abounding in this 81 page document.

The lack of an evidence base for Member State and European Institutional decision making was especially criticised by the ECA. The case for climate and environmental action is “strong” but the data is “insufficient”. The Commission “did not provide robust economic evidence for the final options maintaining traditional CAP measures: direct payments, market measures and rural development” while member states are not even obliged to keep “reliable and comparable statistics on disposable income” the institution said.

There is neither the required ambition for climate or environmental targets, nor a realistic estimate of how CAP will relate to the EU’s targets, the Auditors noted.

Area based payments are signaled out for particular criticism due to their inappropriateness. While the idea of a performance based system is welcomed, the auditors claim that there is nothing in place to make this happen to any significant extent – due to the lack of measurable objectives and lack of incentives.

Indeed the rules and payment system for the future may be even laxer than at present – “Member States’ supervisory role does not change, although control of legality and regularity by the certification bodies is no longer mandatory.” The Commission would, under the proposal, “receive neither control statistics from paying agencies, nor assurance on payments to individual farmers from certification bodies.”

The overall impact of the proposal is thus one of “weakening Commission accountability”, of more difficult auditing and quantification, while the Commission nevertheless remains “ultimately responsible ” for the budget.

The ECA state that the following elements need to be in place (full quote):
– clear, specific and quantified EU objectives for which achievement can be
measured;
– measures that are clearly linked to objectives;
– a fully developed set of output, result and impact indicators;
– requirements for Member States to compile reliable and comparable statistics on
disposable farm income;
– transparent criteria for assessing the content and quality of the CAP strategic plans;
– performance-based payments to the Member States.

The ECA is the fifth institutional wing of the EU. Established in 1975, it has no judicial functions. Its purpose is to assess the budget of the EU against the EU’s targets. It has a previously criticised EU agriculture policy proposals.

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