BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — A total of €115.2 million of E.U. agricultural policy funds unduly spent by member states is being claimed back by the European Commission on Feb. 16 under the so-called clearance of accounts procedure.
As some of these amounts have already been recovered, the financial impact is somewhat lower at €54.3 million. This money returns to the E.U. budget because of non-compliance with E.U. rules or inadequate control procedures on agricultural expenditure. Member states are responsible for paying out and checking expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the commission is required to ensure that member states have made correct use of the funds.
Under this latest decision, funds will be recovered from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The most significant individual corrections are:
- €29.8 million charged to U.K. for weaknesses in their sanctioning system and for inadequately implemented Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and Good Agricultural and Environment Conditions (GAEC) with regard to cross-compliance;
- € 27.3 million charged to Italy with regard to late payments to farmers;
- € 21.5 million charged to Italy for the weaknesses in the controls of mills and compatibility of yields for olive oil;
- €14.6 million charged to the Netherlands for a deficient sanctioning system and lack of control of certain Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and Good Agricultural and Environment Conditions (GAEC) with regard to cross-compliance.
Member states are responsible for managing most CAP payments, mainly via their paying agencies. They are also in charge of controls, for example verifying the farmer's claims for direct payments. The commission carries out over 100 audits every year, verifying that member state controls and responses to shortcomings are sufficient, and has the power to claw back funds in arrears if the audits show that member state responses are not good enough to guarantee that E.U. funds have been spent properly.