On 28.3.22 the Council of State published three rulings on AAC (Agricultural Assistance Centers) - in reform of the decisions of the Lazio Regional Administrative Court (1) - where freelancers are denied the management of files relating to aid to farmers and breeders. #Clean shovels.
Aid in agriculture, premise
AGEA - the General Agency for Disbursements in Agriculture - is the first provider of public contributions to the system of agricultural enterprises. It coordinates the activities of the OPR (Regions Paying Bodies) and represents Italy in relations with the EU. In addition, it makes use of the CAA (Agricultural Assistance Centers) to which farmers and breeders must contact in order to submit applications for admission to public contributions. In order to carry out their activities, AACs must sign an 'agreement' with AGEA every year.
The resolution AGEA 6.12.20 n. 25 (Approval of the 2020-2021 Agreement between Agea and the CAA) of Agricultural Assistance - signed by Gabriele Papa Pagliardini, former business partner of Coldiretti's magic circle as well as responsible for the irretrievable loss of 4 billion euros allocated to Italian farmers (2,3) - had however established that 'all operators authorized to access and operate in the information systems of the Paying Body must be employees of the CAA or of the companies affiliated with it'(art. 4.3).
Professional orders had filed a series of appeals against the aforementioned AGEA resolution which unjustifiably excludes over 2.500 self-employed professionals from accessing the SIAN (National Agricultural Information Service), which is essential for managing agricultural aid files.
The Lazio Regional Administrative Court had accepted the aforementioned appeals, declaring the illegitimacy of the Byzantine resolution referred to above (4,1). All the more so since the self-employed professionals - and not also the employees of the AACs headed by Coldiretti and other agricultural confederations - have qualifications consistent with the activities in question.
Council of State, the rulings on AAC
The Council of State, in the first three sentences on the CAA (5,6,7), overturned the decisions of the Lazio TAR with apodictic reasons, in a copy-paste dense among other things of typing errors. Among the most significant passages, the provisions relating to:
- the 'penetrating power'(alias arbitrariness without limits) of the AGEA, in imposing on the CAA specific organizational requirements - such as the provision of services by employees without art or part, rather than by freelancers - without affecting the general managerial autonomy of the AACs’,
- the irrelevance of 'possible critical profiles for competition with respect to the free market (on the contrary, that of AACs is a restricted market subject to a reserve regime in several respects)'. On the basis of the shameful opinion expressed by the Antitrust, which ignores the rights of farmers to continue to turn to the professionals they trust.
Gabriele Papa Pagliardini, the conflict of interest denied
Gabriele Papa Pagliardini, general manager of AGEA, founded AgriRevi SpA together with various figures who belong to the so-called magic circle of Coldiretti, the first agricultural confederation in Italy (with a number of members that even exceeds the number of active agricultural enterprises registered by ISTAT). (8) Coldiretti dominates the agricultural services market, starting from the AAC, and is therefore interested in excluding freelancers from this market. Just as Gabriele Papa Pagliardini did, with the AGEA resolution 6.12.20 n. 25.
The conflict of interest by Gabriele Papa Pagliardini was recognized by the European Commission, following specific questions from the Strasbourg Parliament (9,2). In the grim silence of Teresa Bellanova and Stefano Patuanelli, in turn asked for explanations. (10) But in the judgments under consideration 'the Administration countered'- at the expense of taxpayers -'that the aforementioned conflict of interest would be reported in completely generic and hypothetical terms and would also be unfounded'. And the Council of State, in defiance of the applicable EU rules, (11) denied the existence of any conflict of interest.
Competition and constitutional rights in smoke
Ignorance of the criteria to protect competition in the EU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU, article 106.2) can force the closure of the hundreds of AACs where today more than 2.500 freelancers operate. Graduated agronomists, agrotechnics and agrotechnics, agricultural experts, forestry doctors would thus be unjustifiably deprived of the right to offer crucial services in interactions with agricultural enterprises.
Farmers and ranchers in turn, they would be unjustifiably deprived of the right to continue to rely on the AACs of self-employed professionals. And so to receive qualified professional services, at competitive conditions and prices. Conversely, they would be forced to associate with agricultural confederations that often speculate on their members (12) - in violation, among other things, of the constitutional right to freedom of association - to exercise their rights to receive payments recognized by EU regulations.
It is logical wait for the professional associations overwhelmed by the sentences of the State Council not to lower their heads in the face of injustice. They will therefore have to appeal to the Supreme Court, with an incidental appeal to the European Court of Justice which is the only judicial authority responsible for the official interpretation of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and its regulations.
It appears useful move away from Rome, to mitigate the risks of Coldiretti's possible influences on the judiciary. Also through its 'Agromafie Observatory' whose scientific committee includes, among others:
- the honorary deputy president of the Council of State Salvatore Giacchetti,
- the councilors of state Giuseppe Chinè and Stefano Toschei,
- the councilors of the Supreme Court Pierluigi Di Stefano, Pasquale Fimiani, Cosimo D'Arrigo, Marcello Maria Fracanzani, Rosaria Giordano (former consultant, among other things, of the former premier Giuseppe Conte)
- the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation Giovanni Salvi. (13)
(1) Dario Dongo. Tris of the Lazio TAR on the CAA. Freelancers admitted. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 11.6.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/tris-del-tar-lazio-sui-caa-riammessi-i-liberi-professionisti
(2) Dario Dongo. AGEA - Coldiretti. The European Commission rejects the conflict of interest. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.3.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/agea-coldiretti-la-commissione-europea-boccia-il-conflitto-d-interessi
(3) Dario Dongo, Giulia Orsi. Report of the Court of Auditors on AGEA directed by Gabriele Papa Pagliardini. #Clean shovels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.3.21. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/relazione-della-corte-dei-conti-sull-agea-diretta-da-gabriele-papa-pagliardini-vanghepulite
(4) Dario Dongo. TAR Lazio cancels the AGEA-CAA agreement. #Clean shovels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.5.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/tar-lazio-annulla-la-convenzione-agea-caa-vanghepulite
(5) Council of State, sentence no. 2271/22. CAA SAE - European Agricultural Services + RPT and National College of Agricultural Experts. https://bit.ly/3DqkZEt
(6) Council of State, sentence no. 2272/22. CAA HEMP + ENPAIA Foundation / Pension Fund for Graduated Agro-technicians and Agro-technicians. https://bit.ly/35oLPjT
(7) Council of State, sentence no. 2277/22. CAA Freelancers + RPT and National College of Agricultural Experts. https://bit.ly/3wM6t8Q
(8) Dario Dongo. Coldiretti, many partners and some doubts. #Clean shovels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 15.4.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/coldiretti-tanti-soci-e-alcuni-dubbi-vanghepulite
(9) Dario Dongo. Coldiretti, Federconsorzi 2 and the director of AGEA. Question to the Senate. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.1.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/coldiretti-federconsorzi-2-e-il-direttore-di-agea-interrogazione-al-senato
(10) Dario Dongo. Conflict of interest AGEA - Pagliardini - Coldiretti, questions to the European Parliament. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 30.1.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/conflitto-d-interessi-agea-pagliardini-coldiretti-interrogazioni-al-parlamento-europeo
(11) Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046, establishing the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union. See Article 61, Conflict of Interest
(12) Dario Dongo. Germina Campus, the Coldiretti holding company that speculates on farmers. #Clean shovels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.6.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/germina-campus-la-holding-di-coldiretti-che-specula-sugli-agricoltori-vanghepulite
(13) The Attorney General of the Cassation Giovanni Salvi is among other things one of the protagonists of the book by Luca Palamara and Alessandro Sallusti 'The system. Power, Business Policy: Secret History of the Italian Judiciary'(Rizzoli, Milan, 2021. ISBN 9788817157162). Quoted on pages 15, 16, 17, 29, 80, 137, 138, 139, 147, 155