Europe and Central Asia

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia Press Release - 12 December

European Court of Auditors exposes CAP greening as a sham


The European Court of Auditors (CoA) has published yet another damning report on the failures of the CAP. Its special report ‘Greening: a more complex income support scheme, not yet environmentally effective’ drives a final nail in the current CAP’s coffin and its claim to improve the environmental performance of farmers or promote the delivery of public goods.

The new report is fully in line with the conclusions of the recently published science review ‘Is the CAP fit for purpose?’ which found the CAP to have very low levels of effectiveness, coherence and relevance, not only in delivering on environmental objectives, but also on socio-economic ones [1]. The report also build on previous CoA reports, notably on the failures of cross compliance [2].

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of EU Policy, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia:CAP greening is a sham and pillar 1 spends money for nothing. EU farming remains an environmental disaster zone. Any honest debate about the next EU budget must start from accepting these unsavoury facts.

Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture & Bioenergy Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia:Hogan’s CAP reform communication rests entirely on the idea of allowing Member States more freedom in deciding how to spend CAP money. Given the levels of abuse by national authorities uncovered by the auditors, the obvious question is, how will accountability for results be ensured? Or are we heading for another devastating round of fake environmental spending?

BirdLife believes direct payments have been proven to be thoroughly meaningless. As income support, they enrich the rich; as environmental payments, they pay polluters; as support to farming, they mostly serve to make land more expensive and prevent the start-up of young and innovative farmers. This bankrupt system should be replaced with ring-fenced dedicated funding to support farmers in conserving biodiversity and with investments to help farmers transition to modes of farming that are truly sustainable (ecologically, socially and economically) [3].

The Commission has promised that the next MFF will be a “budget for results” and has committed through its REFIT program to ensure that all EU legislation is effective, efficient, coherent, relevant and has clear EU added value. The Hogan Communication’s commitment to keep direct payments unchanged clearly undermines these commitments. The Commission must resolve this contradiction if EU Citizens are to continue to support hundreds of billions of euros of their tax money going to the EU budget. ENDS

For further information, please contact:
Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of EU Policy

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia

+32 491 90 46 53



Verbatim quotes from the report hammer home the CAP’s failures:

·         “The green payment remains, essentially, an income support scheme.

·         “We also found that greening is unlikely to provide significant benefits for the environment and climate, mainly because of the significant deadweight which affects the policy. In particular, we estimate that greening led to changes in farming practices on only around 5 % of all EU farmland.

·         “Greening lacks a fully developed intervention logic with clearly defined, ambitious targets and its budget is not directly linked to the policy’s delivery of environmental and climate-related objectives

·         “According to a JRC study modelling the economic impact of the current greening requirements, 71 % of all farmers are not affected by greening at all and incur no compliance costs related to its implementation. Of the 29 % who are affected, more than two-thirds incur compliance costs below 25 euro per hectare. For more than 40 % - these costs are below 10 euro per hectare

·         “Member States use the flexibility in greening rules to limit the burden on farmers and themselves, rather than to maximise the expected environmental and climate benefit

ECoA recommends:

·         “For the next CAP reform, the Commission should develop a complete intervention logic for the CAP’s contribution to the environmental and climate-related objectives of the EU, including specific targets and based on up-to-date scientific understanding of the phenomena concerned

·         “When Member States are given options to choose from in their implementation of the CAP, they should be required to demonstrate, prior to implementation, that the options they select are effective and efficient in terms of achieving policy objectives

[1] Pe’er et al (2017), ‘Is the CAP fit for purpose?’

[2] European Court of Auditors: Cross-compliance: Commission cannot ensure system is effective

[3] CAP Position Paper, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia


BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.


Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.