Guarded Welcome For New Cross Compliance Proposals

Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has given a provisional thumbs up to the Commission's new regulation on cross compliance, with the proviso that simple, proportional rules, controls and sanctions should not be undermined through the creation of overly proscriptive and complex implementing rules through delegated acts.

The new system requires sanctions for cross compliance infringements only if "the non-compliance is the result of an act or omission directly attributable to the beneficiary concerned" (Article 91), and the penalty will be calculated according to the "severity, extent, permanence and reoccurrence of the non-compliance" (Article 99). No mention is made of a standard rate of penalty, like the 3% standard in the current rules, and an upper limit is set for penalties due to "negligence" of 5%, with a 15% upper limit for repeated cases.

The number of GAEC standards has been reduced from 15 to 8, with 4 Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) removed from cross compliance, and authorities with a "properly functioning control system as well as a low error rate" can reduce the number of on-the-spot checks.

Alyn said:

"There's a strong consensus in the Agriculture Committee that cross compliance standards have to add real environmental value, and that the checks should be streamlined with a penalty system which is proportionate to the error, with flexibility for the authorities.

"The Commission's proposals seem to go in the right direction: setting a basic framework for how a penalty system should work, but hopefully leaving the details to the national and regional authorities to work out. What is important is that there is no recommendation for a standard penalty. Our paying agencies need the flexibility to make the penalty fit the actual offence, and also to take into account the real world consequences of unintended errors i.e. errors which do not result in a heightened risk of disease outbreaks, and so on.

"Having said this, there is a danger, as there was in the last reform, that the Commission will seek to fill in the details through delegated acts, an opaque process with no real input for Europe's democratically elected representatives in the Parliament. We don't want to see a flexible framework turn into detailed and inflexible prescriptions which lay down excessive and disproportionate penalties. I've already spoken of how delegated acts could turn greening into a bureaucratic nightmare: the same is true of cross compliance. I'm determined to include as much of the European guidelines as possible into the legislative act, which is easier to amend and more democratically accountable."