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Commission to consider tools to speed up recovery of misspent agricultural funds – Euractiv

The Commission will assess whether it is necessary to push EU countries to shorten recovery periods for irregular payments, a spokesperson said after the European Court of Auditors (ECA) highlighted the length of the process of restitution of irregular disbursements to the EU budget.

In a report published on May 7, the European Court of Auditors warned that recovering misspent EU funds could take years and that the process could even slow down further.

This is a risk in particular for expenditure corrections in terms of direct aid to farmers, according to the CEA. The main reason is that the common agricultural policy (CAP) in force until 2027 no longer incorporates the 2006 principle according to which member states had to bear part of the unrecovered amount in case the process took too long.

According to ECA estimates, the application of this rule resulted in the reimbursement of 234 million euros between 2015 and 2022.

For the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund of the CAP (made up mainly of direct subsidies to farmers), the Court of Auditors detected 2.4 billion euros of irregular expenditure between 2007 and 2022, of which 52% had been recovered at the end by 2022, 9% had been written off and 39% was still unpaid.

Thus, the CEA recommended that the Commission consider adding new “incentives” in the next cycle of the CAP to “recover irregular expenditure (…) more quickly and improve recovery rates”.

“The Commission agrees” on this point, a Commission spokesperson said in an emailed comment. “The Commission will make this assessment to the extent that it is found that the recovery rate is deteriorating.” In the assessment, the Commission will consider “additional incentives” for member states “to improve recovery rates in agriculture”.

Different situations

France, Italy, Spain and Poland reported the highest amounts of the 2.4 billion euros of irregular expenditure in CAP direct payments for 2007-2022. Cure rates were highest in Austria (92%) and lowest in Poland (17%). The share of exemptions varied between 0% in Austria and 48% in the Netherlands.

The situation is different in the case of the European Fund for Rural Development, co-financed by national authorities. By estimating the 2015-21 average recovery rate of the direct support fund and that of rural development, the auditors found that the first was significantly lower, at 49%, compared to 78% for the second.

This gap, stressed the ECA, is essentially due to the fact that the financial contribution of Member States constitutes an incentive to recover misspent funds more quickly.

Without similar incentives in the direct payments fund, auditors warn, “there is a risk” that the rate of “recovery in agriculture will deteriorate”.

“The Commission considers that (…) the overall debt management system is fit for purpose,” said the spokesperson, adding however that the European executive “agrees with (the) recommendation (…) to carry out an assessment of the need for additional incentives for Member States to improve recovery rates in agriculture.

The Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture “will make this assessment to the extent that we note a deterioration in the recovery rate”, concluded the spokesperson.

(Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic)

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