Hogan rebuffs EU auditors’ CAP reform evaluation

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, has rejected the European Court of Auditors’ searing opinion on his landmark proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020.

In the evaluation report (published Wednesday, November 07) the EU’s independent external auditor – which has no legal powers but works to improve the commission’s management of the EU budget and reports on EU finances – stated that the proposed CAP reform “falls short” of the EU’s ambitions for “a greener and more robust performance-based” approach to the sector.

Although the auditors acknowledged that the proposed reforms include tools to address environmental and climate objectives; it contends that these are “neither clearly defined nor translated” into quantified targets.

The report goes on to claim that the commission’s estimate of the CAP’s contribution to EU climate change objectives appears “unrealistic”.

Also Read: CAP reform ‘is falling short’ of EU auditors’ ambitions

The assessment also cast doubt on the propriety of using direct payments as an instrument for addressing environmental concerns, and questions whether the system is the most efficient way of supporting viable incomes.

Defence

However, Commissioner Hogan has quickly moved to defend his proposals.

In a statement to AgriLand, a spokesperson for Commissioner Hogan said: “These proposals were the result of a long and thorough process that involved a wide public consultation, preparatory workshops with outside experts searching solid evidence – all which is available in the public domain – and an ex-ante assessment of the challenges faced by the EU agricultural sector and the CAP.

The commission rejects a number of conclusions set out in the court’s opinion that are based on a fundamental misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the commission’s proposals and lacks evidence of any clear analysis.

“Despite an extensive engagement between the commission’s services and the authors of this opinion over the last months, in some cases basic facts and publicly available information seems to have been simply overlooked,” the statement reads.

The statement goes on to claim that some assertions regarding alleged shortcomings of the commission proposals are “not substantiated“.

It is stated that this is particularly the case when it comes to:
  • The new green architecture of the future CAP and its objectives;
  • The definition of farm income;
  • The role of direct payments as a contribution to farm income and the delivery of food security and public goods;
  • And the impact assessment carried by the commission – which is fully in line with the Better Regulation Guidelines.

It is highlighted that according to the latest report of the court concerning the management of CAP funds, the error rate in spending is at its lowest rate ever – something to which no reference is made in the court’s opinion.

Confident

The commission now intends to follow-up with the court on the issue.

The commission is confident that its proposals will reinforce this trend while reducing red tape for farmers and contributing generally to greater simplification.

“The commission will provide the court with a detailed response and looks forward to the opportunity to meet the relevant members of the court to elaborate on its assessment of the court’s opinion,” concludes the statement.