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Germany: Court questions EU transparency initiative

The administrative court in the German city of Wiesbaden recently questioned the initiative of the European Commission to disclose end-recipients of the European farmsubsidies.

On February 27th the court in Wiesbaden has sent its questions to the European Court of Justice to test, whether the new rules about publications of the names of end-recipients of EU farmsubsidies are consistent with the European rules about privacy and data protection.

According to the press release by the court, the new transparency rules are

not proportionate to the objective pursued, since the publication was not really necessary. The ECJ has in a similar case already decided that the purpose of transparency could be achieved by only the information communicated to the control organs or the total amounts would be released.

The farmers, who had brought the case, were happy about the courts decision to forward the question to the European Court of Justice, EJC.

The German Farmers Association DBV  repeatedly stressed that it was disproportionate that the data via the internet can be viewed worldwide. Also, it is impossible for the data as planned to be erased after two years. The DBV therefore urges the German Federal Republic and the provices to stop the publication immediately and no longer to publish economic data of farmers on the internet.

Data protection is a highly regarded fundamental right in Germany, where there is a need to demonstrate an overriding public interest before disclosure. The question by the German court follows an argument, that transparency is not a public objective in itself but only a means to achieve such an objective, and that the control of how public money is spent is sufficiently safeguarded by the EU control systems.The case thus has principal character, as it touches upon the relation between transparency and protection of privacy.

The German transparency initiative Wer Profitiert? in it's statement comments in a surprised tone: "If a company does not want its name mentioned as a recipient of the subsidies, it should not apply for them," they state.

By Brigitte Alfter


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