CAP reforms ‘too complex’

The European Court of Auditors has now examined the four main draft regulations presented by the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council of Ministers last October.

In the Court’s opinion these proposals are “too complex”,  impose an “excessive” burden and argues the policies proposed are more geared to compliance than performance.

Complexity arises because, for example, six distinct layers of rules govern rural development expenditure and, despite the proposals, the cross-compliance policy remains difficult to administer to the detriment of those who should benefit.

As regards direct payments to farmers, the essential objectives of these are not set out, neither are there yet provisions to measure their effectiveness.  The Court’s report has emphasised the essential need to set out specific objectives the rural development proposals should be designed to achieve, thus ensuring that support is targeted to those areas where aid is most required.  It also calls into question the lack of coherent measures to ensure that the proposals for cross compliance and the “greening” measure can be properly analysed to ensure that they meet their stated objectives.  The Court remains unimpressed with the proposed definition of an “active farmer” and believes that payments will, as a result, continue to be made to those who do not exercise any agricultural activity.  It goes further to suggest that to effectively impose and implement the measures relating to the active farmer could well mean successive administrative burdens.

The Court’s report draws attention to the Commission’s estimates that these proposed reforms are likely to result in an increase of 15% to the cost of managing the direct payment schemes – a cost to be borne by the Member States and it also highlights the arguments of many of us that the requirement to have activated payment entitlements in 2011 in order to apply for entitlements in 2014 will create barriers to new entrants.

Time after time the proposed regulations refer to the detail to be contained in the ‘implementing regulations’ of the Commission.  If those Commission regulations are not fully effective, the proposed reforms will remain too complex, burdensome and excessive in relation to what they are seeking to achieve.

The Court’s opinion will be presented to the European Parliament at the end of this month.

There remains a huge amount of work still to be completed and the issue of the budgets remain to be resolved.

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