Tommy Kaas is an editor and a partner at Kaas & Mulvad. He was co-founder of DICAR – the Danish International Center for Analytical Reporting. Besides his work in Kaas & Mulvad he is a part-time lecturer at the Department of Communication, Business and Information Technologies at Roskilde University. Twitter: @tbkaas
Nils Mulvad is a co-founder of the Global Network for Investigative Journalism and other international networks such as Farmsbusidy.org. He was CEO for the Danish International Center for Analytical Reporting 2001-2006, European journalist of the year in 2006, and he also teaches data and web courses for journalists with focus on using social and mobile media. He is editor at Kaas & Mulvad and associate professor at The Danish School of Media and Journalism. Twitter: @nmulvad
Gathering and archiving information from social media, fact-checking, crowdsourcing, using big datasets and interactive graphics are all methods to be shared and developed both in the coverage of events and investigative journalism.
Fishsubsidy.org: New online database of €1.1 billion in EU fisheries subsidies; concerns about declining data standards
Fishsubsidy.org, the transparency project which in 2009 launched an online database of EU fisheries subsidies from 1994 to 2006, has launched a new database of payments under the European Fisheries Fund, from 2007 to 2010.
The project’s co-founders have sounded a grave warning about the deteriorating quality of data released to the public, and the implications of this the waste, fraud and abuse of EU funds.
Nils Mulvad, the Danish data journalist and fishsubsidy.org co-founder who led the collection of data from the twenty seven EU member states said:
“It is really, really bad. Many governments don’t comply with basic EU laws on transparency. Some governments publish no data at all, others are publishing incomplete data in bad formats like PDF files running to thousands of pages. This is money from the EU budget, paid for by European citizens who have a right to know who gets what. The European Commission must get a grip.”
Fishsubsidy.org co-founder Jack Thurston said:
“There is a new European Transparency Initiative. But today we have less information on EU fish subsidy payments than we used to have in past years. It’s a real step backwards in transparency and at a time when we desperately need to know how this money is being spent. Are EU funds are being used to fish for over-exploited fish stocks, or perhaps worse, for criminal fishing operations. We just don’t know. What is most startling is that neither does the Commission because we know that they have not themselves asked for this data from national governments.”
A transparency index evaluates the data published by member states for completeness, details and accessibility. It shows which countries are doing better and which doing badly. The ranking is topped by Sweden. Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia and the UK score relatively highly, though with significant deficiencies. The worst performers were Greece and Portugal, which appear to have published no data at all, despite spending a significant share of EU fisheries funds. Spain, which accounts for some 40 per cent of fisheries subsidies spending, scored just 48% in the transparency ranking.
Fishsubsidy.org is a project coordinated by EU Transparency, a nonprofit organisation in the UK, and the Pew Environment Group. The aim is to obtain detailed data related to payments and recipients of fisheries subsidies in every EU member state and make this data available in a way that is useful to European citizens. Subsidies paid to owners of fishing vessels and others working in the fishing industry under the European Fisheries Fund total about €1 billion a year (2007-2013).
Under the European Transparency Initiative, details of all end beneficiaries of EU funds should be published, to improve accountability, legitimacy and as a way of combating fraud and abuse. See: www.ec.europa.eu/transparency/eti/index_en.htm
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organisation that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.
It conflicts with human rights to publish names and amounts on recipients of EU farm subsidies. This has the European Court of Justice decided.
Germany and Ireland have now shut down their websites, but the information can be found on farmsubsidy.org.
Today it’s hard to tell the consequenses of the decission.
See Jack Thurstons, Brigitte Alfters and mine initial reaction to the decision on behalf of Farmsubsidy.org.
Reaction from the Commissionen
“Subject: Judgement of the Court of 9/11/2010 in cases C-92/09 and C-93/09 Volker und Markus Scheke GbR and Hartmut Eifert
Member States are informed that the Court issued its ruling on 09.11.2010 in the cases cited in the subject. For individuals receiving aid from EAGF and EAFRD, this ruling in an appeal partially invalidates Council Regulation (EC) No 1290 and in particular Article 44a which introduces an obligation for Member States to publish the data of beneficiaries of agricultural fund. It invalidates Commission Regulation (EC) No. 259/2008 in its entirety.
Consequently, with immediate effect, all Member States are requested to suspend the publication of data on individual beneficiaries affected by the invalidated provisions.
As regards legal persons, provided this is technically and administratively feasible, Member States may continue to publish the data. It is requested from Member States to kindly inform the Commission during the Funds Committee meeting of November 16 2010, if they are technically and administratively able to distinguish between natural and legal persons.
The Commission will embark on the drafting of a new proposal for a Council and Parliament Regulation (amendment of Regulation (EC) N° 1290/2005) which will take account of the objections raised by the Court.”
Farmsubsidy.org has released information on farm subsidies for all 27 EU memberstates for free and made the database searchable in a simple way.
Danish payments of EU farm subsidies got journalist Kjeld Hansen and I access to in 2004. Several stories followed in Danish medias. It was a breakthrough, because it was the first country in EU to release the information.
The year after together with the UK-based analyst Jack Thurston and others I founded Farmsubsidy.org. The goal was to get the data out in all EU countries. Slowly this developed. We got the data in some countries, we run court cases and other cases to press the authorities.
Farmsubsidy.org has got more data and a new design.
First time with all payments
EU decided then memberstates should release their data. In May 2009 it was the first time all countries was forced to publish data, but several countries did it in a way, where we couldn’t get it all.
In May this year the memberstates then published the data for 2009. Despite we still face a lot of problems with data quality, we managed to get a more and less complete data set for all countries. For the first time we then see a total set of data of all the payments of €56 billion in 2009.
The data has been used for several stories. Look at the overview from journalist Brigitte Alfter.
Now is the website then opened for conducting your own search. It is still possible for analysts and others to get the full dataset. Look here.
The work in Farmsubsidy.org has been financed by Hewlett Foundation, but they will stop. We seach for other sources, so we can continue to gather data and help media and others to analyse. If you have ideas please help.