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BRUSELAS SE CUESTIONA LAS AYUDAS AL PLÁTANO

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Informe sobre “las medidas específicas para la agricultura en favor de las regiones ultraperiféricas” en el que entre otras cuestiones se  plantea las ayudas al plátano.

Según el informe de la Comisión, que ha sido remitido a la prensa Los Verdes: “La fiscalización del Tribunal de Cuentas de la ayudas para los productores de plátanos, aunque eficaz en términos de sus objetivos socio-económicos, en realidad no ayudan a mantener el equilibrio del medio ambiente”.

Committee on Budgetary Control

17.12.2010

WORKING DOCUMENT

Special Report No.10/2010 on Specific measures for agriculture in favour of the outermost regions of the Union and the smaller Aegean islands.

Committee on Budgetary Control

Rapporteur: Elisabeth Köstinger

1. Introduction

Between 1989 and 1993, the Council adopted specific measures for agriculture in the outermost regions of the European Union (the French overseas departments, the Canary Islands, the Azores and Madeira) and on the smaller Greek islands of the Aegean in order to deal with the particular situation facing these regions.

 

The Commission's a strategy for the outermost regions, encompasses three objectives:

(a) reducing the accessibility deficit;

(b) increasing competitiveness;

(c) strengthening regional integration.

 

The main tools for achieving these objectives are the Structural Funds and both agricultural funds (the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund [EAGF] and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development [EAFRD]), including a specific agricultural programme for the outermost regions known as the "Programme of options specific to the remote and insular nature of the outermost regions" (POSEI).

Under the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) budget, the implementation of the specific measures is under shared management arrangements. With the move to greater regional participation, decentralisation and flexible decision-making as a result of the 2006 reforms, a bottom-up approach is applied to programming and implementation. This means that the needs of the outermost regions, and the measures to meet those needs, are identified at the level deemed most appropriate by the Member States. The Member States are responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring the programmes.

The programmes for the outermost regions and the Aegean islands use two different instruments to meet the regions’ specific needs. Specific supply arrangements (SSAs) are a system of compensation for the higher costs caused by the insularity and remoteness of the regions concerned. Measures to assist local agricultural products (MLAPs) are aimed at developing local agricultural production and the supply of agricultural products.

In 2006, the specific measures were reformed. The Commission concluded that management of the system was too rigid, and thus limited the ability of EU action to provide a timely response to the needs of the outermost regions in a manner suited to their specific problems. As a result, the new approach has given priority to greater regional participation, decentralisation and flexible decision-making, on the basis of programmes presented by the Member States for approval by the Commission.

 

2. Audit scope and approach

The Court's audit set out to answer the following questions :

(a) Are the support programmes drawn up by the Member States and approved by the Commission designed in such a way as to provide an effective response to specific needs?

(b) Have the measures designed by the Member States since the 2006 reform been implemented effectively?

 

(c) Are the support programmes drawn up by the Member States and approved by the Commission monitored in an effective way?

 

The audit covers the financial years closed since the specific measures were reformed (2007, 2008 and 2009).

 

3. The Court's conclusions and recommendations

 

Audit question (a)

The Court concludes that the new bottom-up, decentralised approach introduced by the 2006 reform of the specific measures has not been sufficiently taken advantage of in order to improve the effectiveness of the existing measures.

 

The Commission gave priority to its role of checking the compliance and consistency of the programmes rather than to its management responsibilities and to actively helping to ensure that the programmes' design optimised their impact.

 

ECA recommendation 1

 

For future programming of specific measures, the Commission should help the Member States draw up their programmes by promoting best practices and by defining a harmonised framework of indicators for monitoring programme performance.

 

The 1 August deadline for amending the programmes limits the Member States' ability to propose duly substantiated amendments and may therefore be detrimental to the effectiveness of the programmes. Moreover, the objective of increasing flexibility has not been achieved.

 

ECA recommendation 2

The Commission should reconsider the 1 August N-1 deadline for formally approving programme amendments so that the Member States possess reliable information on the previous year’s expenditure when they are preparing amendments.

 

 

Audit question (b)

 

In general, the Court concludes that the programmes are implemented effectively and thus meet the needs of the outermost regions and the Aegean islands. However, the Court's audit identified a series of measures whose design limited their implementation as regards effectiveness:

(a) the objective of maintaining olive groves on the smaller Aegean islands could have been more effective if Greece had required the maintenance of olive groves in the framework of cross-compliance, as is the case, for example, in Italy;

 

(b) the effectiveness of financing aid for innovation and the quality of milk products in the Azores has not been demonstrated;

(c) aid for banana producers, although effective in terms of its socio-economic objective, does not really help to maintain environmental equilibrium;

(d) flat-rate aid for the sugar industry on Réunion currently ensures that the sector remains operational. However, as it is very fragile, the effectiveness of EU aid depends on additional national aid;

(e) lastly, the amounts allocated to the SSAs (specific supply arrangements) in Greece, France and Portugal are too small to have an impact on a large range of farm products.

 

 

ECA recommendation 3

 

The Member States should modify the measures concerned so as to rectify the weaknesses identified by the Court by implementing the bottom-up approach in consultation with stakeholders on site. The Commission’s evaluation report should also serve to identify ineffective measures whose design could be improved.

 

The Member States' control procedures are not always suited to the diverse nature of the specific measures.

 

ECA recommendation 4

 

The Member States should devise control procedures that are suited to each type of measure. In particular, they must ensure that their system for identifying farmland is regularly updated. For its part, the Commission should ensure that these control procedures work effectively.

 

 

Audit question (c)

 

The Court concludes that current programme monitoring is not effective. The Commission laid the foundations of a performance management system by requiring the Member States to provide details of performance indicators in their annual implementation reports. However, the indicators developed by the Member States are too varied for the Commission to be able to draw conclusions about the performance of all the specific measures.

 

ECA recommendation 5

The Commission should use the information provided by the Member States to monitor programme performance on an annual basis, including information that already exists and information yet to be provided in full.

 

 

4. Summary of the Commission's replies (for full text please see the ECA report)

 

In accordance with the Regulation following the 2006 reform on specific measures for agriculture in the outermost regions of the Union and the Aegean islands, Member States must define their strategy, the objectives to be pursued and the most suitable measures to support agriculture in their regions. The Commission's role is essentially to ensure that the proposed measures are in line with EU legislation.

 

At the start of the programming, Member States generally opted for continuity with previous schemes and for gradual improvement involving annual programme amendments. The Commission accepted this approach and supported the national authorities in their programming and administration tasks.

However, it agrees with the Court that the schemes must be monitored to ensure that they are effective. For this reason, the Commission is helping Member States to improve the proposed measures and to seek solutions with them to make the programmes more efficient.

 

Adapting Member States' monitoring arrangements to the specific measures is one of the aspects taken into account during audits carried out by the Commission.

 

An in-depth global evaluation of the impact of the programmes is, admittedly, carried out only at five-year intervals, as required by the Regulation. However, regular monitoring is conducted by means of ongoing contacts with the national authorities and the annual evaluation of implementation reports submitted by Member States.

 

The Commission agrees with the Court that these reports are not harmonised, and it has worked with the relevant national authorities to define common indicators to be used each year to monitor all programmes from 2011 on.

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