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16.11.2009 General posts
 

The waste of tax payers money

Michael JägerTax payers should not be forced to subsidize airlines that declare their in-flight meals as food exports. Nor should they have to finance economically absurd live cattle exports that are irreconcilable with animal welfare. Michael Jäger, Secretary General of the Tax Payers Association of Europe (TAE), gives his opinions on the CAP.

Valentin Zahrnt:
What do you think of the Common Agricultural Policy?
Michael Jäger:
As the watchdog of taxpayers, we strongly believe in market forces We need fewer wasteful subsidies and more efficiency.
VZ:
Do you think that this waste in agriculture has more general repercussions on how governments spend public money?
MJ:
The CAP is a symbol of irresponsible spending. It is important that, at last, we have transparency about who receives the subsidies. What we see is that the money goes to the wrong recipients. We are paying great sums to Lufthansa and large meat-producing companies.
VZ:
How does that affect public support for the EU?
MJ:
If the EU wants to be respected by its citizens, it has to change the CAP. A first step would be to better control to whom we pay subsidies. We should also introduce co-financing for all EU subsidies, so that member states pay a share of the costs. In the long run, we should do without most of the subsidies.
VZ:
So what do you do to promote such changes?
MJ:
One major activity for many years has been to advocate better transparency and control of subsidies but that is not all. For instance, we have fought together with animal welfare groups for more than 10 years, to bring an end to export subsidies for live cattle. Shipping living cattle causes much suffering for the animals and is a tremendous waste of money. Just as we worked together with animal welfare activists, we are open to cooperation with anybody who shares our objectives.
VZ:
The media occasionally reports on fraud, especially when it comes to export subsidies. Do you have any idea how widespread this problem is?
MJ:
The problem is serious but it is difficult to put numbers on it. Even more problematic than actual fraud are criteria that are too loose. The British Royal family is legally entitled to subsidies. In Denmark, somebody constructed a skiing slope on a hill though you cannot really ski there - and he got EU subsidies. We must have much stricter criteria about who can claim public money.
VZ:
A last question: the Court of Auditors has frequently condemned the CAP for poor program design and managerial weaknesses. What is your perception of their work?
MJ:
The auditors are doing an excellent job, not only at European but also at national level. But they can only present their findings, there is no follow-up. That is where the taxpayer associations come into play. As independent NGOs, we can go to the media and even bring legal cases against unlawful subsidy practices. That is our role: to create pressure for more efficient public spending.