posted by Jack Thurston at
The EU will spend the best part of a billion euros between now and 2010 on subsidies to European tobacco farmers. The draft EU budget appropriation for EU tobacco subsidies in 2008 is €293 million, although an announcement this week by the Commission said that the ceiling was somewhat higher, at €337 million. This is well down on previous years, thanks to the reforms agreed in 2004, but it is still shocking that so much money is being spent on subsidising a product that kills 650,000 European citizens a year.
The Commission's announcement also contained news of renewed finance for a Community Tobacco Fund to pay for awareness-raising on dangers of tobacco. The fund could be worth as much as €16 million a year, five per cent of what is spent on tobacco subsidies. According to a Commission impact assessment, tobacco is grown in fourteen of the 27 EU member states although the vast majority is produced in just two countries: Greece and Italy. Tobacco farming in Europe is entirely reliant on subsidies. The Commission estimated that in the three largest producer countries in 2000, subsidies accounted for 98 per cent of the revenue of tobacco farms, a level of dependency far higher than any other agricultural sector. In addition to the tobacco premium, European tobacco farmers also receive very substantial decoupled farm subsidy payments.
The following day, the Commission announced it was setting aside €2 million for aid to the people of Chad, where a humanitarian disaster is fast unfolding.
So here are those figures again:
€337 million in subsidies to European tobacco farmers.
€16 million for a fund to warn Europeancitizens about the dangers of smoking.
€2 million for humanitarian aid to the people of Chad.
It would of course be quite wrong to compare these figures and draw any conclusion about the priorities of the EU budget.