Disallowances are to be challenged in EU Court

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DEFRA is to lodge a challenge with the European Court of Justice on the most recent area aids disallowance imposed by the European Commission.

The move was revealed by Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill when she updated the Assembly on progress with the work being undertaken by her department to address the disallowances imposed by the European Commission.

The minister told MLAs that compliance lies at the heart of the concerns raised by the Commission and there is a need to enhance its confidence in the department’s Paying Agency controls.

“However, challenge is also appropriate on certain aspects of disallowance and I am pleased to announce that I have persuaded DEFRA to lodge a challenge with the European Court of Justice on the most recent area aids disallowance confirmed by the Commission in September,” she said.

“This means that if our original case is ruled inadmissible on standing, this second case could not be challenged on that basis.

“The court will have the chance now to consider and decide on the substantive issues of the case and I hope that in the end the outcome will be positive even if it takes some years to conclude.”

The minister said that in addition to this challenge her department is continuing to implement a comprehensive programme of work to ensure compliance with EU Regulations moving forward.

She said one of the key elements in the compliance programme is the LPIS mapping project.

“Through this we have identified a maximum eligible area for each field and created a new mapping baseline for the future,” the minister continued.

“It is vital that we have a more stable and secure mapping platform to allow us to make the transition from the current schemes to those that are being developed under CAP reform.

“I am pleased to report that work on this is at an advanced stage and new maps, which identify a maximum eligible area and will be used as the basis for the 2013 Single Application process, will issue in December and January.”

The minister urged farmers to check their maps and let DARD know of any changes to these. She said: “Farmers should not assume that these maps are correct.

“In many cases the maps will need to be amended to reflect changes that can only be identified by the farmer on the ground.

“Incorrect maps may contribute to delays in payments further down the line.

“I am building a base to significantly reduce future risk of disallowance, recognising that it takes time for all the benefits to feed through.

“But I am determined that we will be able to demonstrate significant success as we approach the next major hurdle of CAP reform.”