Court of Audit: EU subsidy for the wine industry hardly leads to more 'green' wine

When subsidies are awarded to the European wine industry, little attention is paid to environmental effects and hardly any sustainability conditions are attached. This is what the European Court of Auditors says in a study into the annual EU subsidy to the wine industry.

In the EU, wines can be red, white or rosé, but there is rarely “green” viticulture, the ECA says. 

The European accountant regrets that, despite the large amounts of money involved, wine policy has hardly contributed to a better environment. While in agricultural policy tens of percent are shifted to eco schemes and nature objectives, in the wine industry barely five percent of the subsidy is earmarked.

The financial support also only slightly improves the competitive position compared to non-EU countries.

Some €500 million in EU funds have been spent annually over the past decade to help winegrowers, but there is scant evidence that the financial support has actually helped the climate or the sector as a whole, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) concluded. .

Under the common agricultural policy, wine producers can receive financial support to restructure their vineyards, make them more competitive and install systems to reduce their ecological footprint.

The five countries visited by auditors – Spain, France, Italy, Greece and the Czech Republic – accounted for 70% of the EU restructuring payments. The funding was simply approved for all eligible requests, without using “criterions to select projects to promote competitiveness,” auditors said.

“In practice, the projects were not aimed at reducing the climate and/or environmental impact of viticulture. Under certain circumstances we saw that they could even have the opposite effect, such as switching to varieties that require more water, require irrigation systems to be installed,” the auditors said.

“Promoting the competitiveness of the wine sector is essential and particularly relevant for the EU, but it must go hand in hand with better environmental sustainability,” said Joëlle Elvinger, the ECA member who led the audit. “In any case, we can say that the EU still has to achieve results on both objectives.”