A study by The New York Times of CAP farm subsidies in central and eastern Europe has uncovered eye-watering abuse. Politicians and their powerful friends have filled their pockets with millions of euro at the expense of taxpayers and consumers and also more than half of the EU’s farmers who get less than a piffling €1,250 a year in support payments.
It’s a scandal compounded by the inability or unwillingness of the union’s commission to clean up what has been described by a former Hungarian rural development minister as an “an absolutely corrupt system”.
That one in five of the best-paid recipients of farm subsidies are billionaires is no longer a secret. What we know now, thanks to The New York Times and whistleblowers in Europe, is that much of this money has gone into a crony economy in which secrecy surrounding land ownership and the CAP regime has been exploited by elected officials in Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia to enrich themselves and their oligarch associates. One racket identified is the sale of state-owned land at auctions to which only one signed-up buyer is invited.
There might be an explanation in this for observers who have wondered why the leaders of the vociferously Eurosceptic governments in these regions have no interest in pulling their countries out of the EU: The CAP has been and remains an everlasting revenue stream for their gangster friends.