MEPs call for "anti-oligarch" law

MEPs have called for an EU law to prevent oligarchs and land-grabbers drawing on EU subsidies at the expense of small and medium-sized farming businesses. The new law should "cap subsidies per natural person, introduce a clear register of real company owners and prevent land theft”, said European Peoples' Party (EPP) Group's Monika Hohlmeier MEP, Chairwoman of the European Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee.

“EU funds are systematically abused by wide-spread oligarchic or criminal structures in some Member States. The conflict of interest of the Czech Prime Minister Babiš and other possible oligarchic structures are the ultimate call for a change in EU rules on how much money one single person can receive from the EU budget”, said Hohlmeier, who authored a parliamentary report on the European Commission's management of EU funds.

Monika Hohlmeier Mep

“The EU must also offer a direct reporting mechanism for small farmers, whose land, eligible for subsidies, has been stolen by criminal networks, as the European Anti-Fraud Office reported on cases in Slovakia and Italy,” she added.

“That a few businesses receive the vast majority of Union subsidies in some countries is neither fair nor in line with the intentions of EU structural funding. The majority of EU taxpayers should benefit from EU funds rather than see their contributions being paid out to oligarchs”, continued Hohlmeier.

“This will be part of our requests in the upcoming negotiations of the long-term EU budget. The European Commission must propose budgetary rules setting a maximum amount that natural persons and big holdings owning several companies can receive from EU cohesion and agricultural funds”.

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The anti-oligarch measures should be accompanied by a register of final beneficiaries and their real owners to create transparency on which natural persons receive EU funds. “We want a reporting standard for who the natural persons behind the final beneficiaries of EU funds are across all Member States. If one person owns a parent company, it must be visible that funds received by the subsidiaries end up in the same hands”, explained Hohlmeier.

Hohlmeier's parliamentary report on the European Commission's financial management pays special attention to land-grabbing practices too. “Farmers must know that they are protected by the EU if national authorities fail to act. The EPP Group therefore calls for a mechanism through which affected farmers can lodge complaints directly with the Commission”, concluded Hohlmeier.

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