Friday, August 19, 2005

Dutch Agriculture Minister subsidized

It seems that Marianne Fischer-Boel, the Agriculture Commissioner from Denmark, is not the only politician to enjoy a substantial largesse from the pesky Common Agricultural Policy.

Netherlands has joined Britain and Denmark in disclosing where the various agricultural subsidies go. (Though the “astonishing” revelation that most of the money goes to very big landowners and, above all, various agribusinesses could have surprised only the journalists.)

The Dutch government is faced with a slightly more embarrassing situation. It seems that the Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman received about €190,000, (£129,000 or $233,000) last year for his farms in France and the Netherlands. Quite a nice little earner one would have thought.

Mr Veerman, needless to say, does not consider that there might be a clash of interest here. Instead, he has promised to reveal where all the other money goes in the Netherlands.

As the International Herald Tribune notes:
“In 2001, the Netherlands received about 236 million euros in direct farm payments, out of a total 25 billion euros of direct farm payments paid into the 15 countries that then comprised the EU. The total EU budget is about 40 billion euros, including other support and payments to encourage rural development.”
This rather awkward revelation and the reluctance to give out other figures comes, as we know, at a difficult time for the Dutch euro-enthusiasts. The people rejected the Constitution in June and are showing no signs of contrition over it.

In fact, the Dutch are turning against the project and, in the wake of the Theo Van Gogh case, against many of the so-called European ideals, that are nothing of the kind but have been promulgated as such by the EU and its supporters.

Among those involved in the discussion about agricultural subsidies and the effect they have on the world in general is the Evert Vermeer Foundation, a research institute connected with the Dutch Labour Party, that concentrates on developing countries. It is they who requested the information under Freedom of Information legislation. Their spokesman, Yannick Du Pont, said quite reasonably:
“We want to reduce this absurd subsidy system. This is for the benefit of European taxpayers and to find a solution for developing countries. If they don't release the full figures, we will ask, '’What else are they hiding?’”
Good question. One wonders what the answer will be.


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