How to improve spending controls while cutting red tape 


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Since the start of the CAP reform debate, MEPs have stressed that the new CAP must cut bureaucratic red tape, including that involved in checking proper compliance with EU rules and efficient spending of EU funds.

To make farmers' lives easier while keeping a close eye on compliance with common rules on how EU funds are spent, the new rules will include several measures designed to remove unnecessary bureaucracy for farmers and ensure that penalties for breaching rules are proportionate.

More proportionate checks and sanctions

All checks and sanctions, including those used to enforce "cross-compliance" (i.e. conditions attached to farmers' payments to ensure they conform to basic environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards), must be proportionate and tailored to the level of risk, says the agreed text. Furthermore, member states where the error rate is at an acceptable level could reduce the number of on-the-spot checks.

To simplify the application process, member states may provide farmers with a pre-filled electronic form based on the application submitted in the previous year. If there are no changes, farmers would only need to sign and submit it.

Early warning system

Member states could set up an early warning system, which would send an initial warning to the beneficiary who breached a cross-compliance rule and inform him or her of the need to remedy it. If this is done, depending on the severity and extent and duration of the problem, payments should not be reduced unless the non-compliance constitutes a direct risk to public or animal health. However, if the problem persists, payments to the farmer should be reduced, even retrospectively.

Transparency should not breach privacy

The agreement provides for the publication of names (for both legal and natural persons) of beneficiaries of EU agricultural subsidies, municipalities and post codes where they reside, amounts they receive and measures for which the payment is allocated. All the data should be compiled on a single website, which should be set up by the member state. Small farmers (all those receiving less than €1250 per year) should be identified by a code.