The EU is turning a blind eye to a giant “scam” in eastern Europe, says The New York Times. Hungary’s nationalist PM, Viktor Orbán, was the first to spot the opportunity: his government sold huge tracts of state-owned land to oligarchs and political allies, ensuring their support by enabling them to claim vast sums in EU agricultural subsidies each year. It’s “galling” that Orbán blames the EU for “every imagined indignity” while “milking billions” to prop up his illiberal rule. Across the region, these subsidies have become “a lavish slush fund for political insiders”.
Companies owned by the Czech PM Andrej Babiš pocketed $42m from farm subsidies last year; in Bulgaria, just 100 “land barons” picked up 75% of the country’s agricultural subsidies in 2016; in Slovakia, an “agricultural Mafia” has pushed small farmers off their land.
What really grates is that EU bureaucrats know all about these practices, but won’t act. They believe interfering with subsidies provided under the Common Agricultural Policy would be seen as infringing on national sovereignty. Unfortunately, this approach has failed to stop the corrupt and powerful enriching themselves with public money. (The New York Times)
My comment: This is not news and is not confined to Eastern Europe. Rich Brits are doing exactly the same thing. Mr.Rees-Mogg, an ardent Brexiteer, prominent Tory and very rich, owns huge country estates and claims off the very organization (the EU) that he effects to despise. Having made a fortune he has “had his meal”, is sated in profit and is happy to leave the EU. Be sure, nonetheless, that the British government will continue to reward him and other large landowners, as before. All this is horrendously unEpicurean. Corruption always is.