Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán are in the crosshairs of the European Parliament (EP), which is pushing for the deployment of a special data tool of the European Commission to detect fraud and conflicts of interest in agricultural subsidies. Politico reports, referring to the statements of some MEPs who represent European legislation in the negotiations on the reform of the common agricultural policy.
The lack of transparency and the occurrence of corruption in the redistribution of European agricultural subsidies, which are the largest item in the EU budget, are presented by some negotiators as a key issue that will need to be discussed in the final phase of the new CAP negotiations for 2023-2027. is scheduled for next week.
The EP calls for the use of the Arachne data tool, which is now deployed on a voluntary basis, for example in the distribution of structural funds, to be extended in the area of agricultural subsidies. The Arachne system contains information on grant recipients, their partners and suppliers and, based on certain indicators, alerts the European Commission to those projects where there is the greatest risk of fraud, conflict of interest and irregularities. In these cases, the EC pays more attention to inspections.
However, Parliament is opposed by the Council of the EU, which brings together representatives of the 27 Member States, who would like to leave the decision on the use of the instrument to individual countries. However, according to Ulrike Müller, who is one of the EP’s main negotiators in the field of agriculture, this is not enough. “Parliament wants to take action against Babiš and Orbán,” she told the Politico server.
On Wednesday, the European Parliament discussed the results of the European Commission’s audit, according to which the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic is in a conflict of interest, as he continues to control Agrofert through trust funds. According to Brussels, companies connected with it are therefore not entitled to European subsidies from the structural funds. Babiš denies this and claims that by transferring the assets to trust funds, he complied with Czech law. His government has a similar attitude.
MEPs have expressed concern in the past that the redistribution of European subsidies in Hungary is reportedly controlled by oligarchs and family members of government officials.
A source from the EP said that Babiš and Orbán would probably not be pleased with the mandatory deployment of the Arachne tool for agricultural subsidies. However, most European countries are resisting such a move mainly because, according to them, the instrument is not sufficiently prepared. They also fear an excessive increase in administration for small farmers.
However, a spokesman for the European Commission said that the institution wanted to enforce the mandatory use of this instrument in the next period of the common agricultural policy. In any case, the EC intends to prepare Arachne for deployment in the field of agricultural subsidies by 2023, regardless of the final agreement of the Member States on whether it will have to be used.