Europe’s farm program, which pays out $65 billion in subsidies to support farmers and rural communities, is being taken advantage of by group of land barons across the 28 country bloc, the New York Times reports.
The New York Times survey of subsidies in nine European countries found that millions of euros in agricultural subsidies had been directed to a handful of companies, often linked to national leaders.
It alleged that the CAP had even underwritten “mafia-style land grabs” in Slovakia and Bulgaria.
One example is Viktor Orban, the prime minister in Hungary. Under Orban, Hungary’s government has auctioned off state-owned farmland to his family, friends, and close associates, according to the Times report. This means that his friends then qualify for “millions in subsidies from the European Union”.
The problem extends beyond Hungary. In the Czech Republic, the Times found that companies owned by the prime minister Andrej Babis collected $42 million in agricultural subsidies last year. The problem also exists in Bulgaria, and a top prosecutor in Slovakia has said an “agricultural mafia” exists.
The European Union supported farmers with 58.82 billion Euros (£50.8 billion) in 2018. Subsidies are meant to support food production, rural community development, and environmentally friendly farming.
Europe’s farm program is one of the largest subsidy programs globally, and accounts for 40% of EU expenditures, according to the report. Even though the system is fueling corruption, changing it would require a complete overhaul of the program, which holds the EU together.
That’s why the program, which is set to be renewed this year, may actually give national leaders more power over how they distribute and spend the money even though there have been objections from internal auditors in Europe.