Finding out which corporations and large aristocratic landowners reap the bulk of the €4 billion in farm subsidies distributed in Britain each year from the EU Common Agricultural Policy has to be the best use of the UK Freedom of Information Act so far.
Hopefully it will be emulated elsewhere in the European Union. Here’s some international context background from the IHT:
The activists who triggered the outbreak of openness were emulating a U.S. campaign, which, according to Liz Moore of the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, in 2001 forced the revelation that U.S. government subsidies were being paid to thousands of dead American farmers, as well as to celebrities and businessmen, and even to a basketball star.
The United States is now considering a tighter ceiling on the amount that any single person is eligible to receive in one year.
In Europe, Denmark was the first to go down the openness route. Last year, following a campaign by two journalists, figures were released that showed that Brussels money had gone to members of the Danish royal family, big companies, state prisons, and politicians, according to Nils Mulvad, one of the journalists. “We now have concrete information on how this system actually functions,” he said.
The campaigners want other countries to open up.
The powerful battalions of German and French farmers may, however, prove more successful than the British and the Danes in keeping the size of their paychecks secret.
Mariann Fischer Boel, the EU agriculture commissioner, said that she personally favored full transparency but that national capitals must decide. Last month, however, Siim Kallas, the EU’s new administration commissioner, declared an initiative to close the “information gap.”