Brussels, 6 June 2000
FISCHLER meets CEEC farm ministers "SAPARD can be showcase for restructuring"
Speaking at a conference with the agriculture ministers from the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEEC) on the implementation of the EU's pre-accession instrument SAPARD(1) today, Franz FISCHLER, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, welcomed the progress made in the Central and Eastern European applicant countries. SAPARD foresees the delegation of substantial responsibility to the candidate countries regarding the management of EU funds for rural development. "Exchanging views, keeping the information flowing is key to successful enlargement. Our common goal is to make the 520 million euros per year available as soon as possible. Speed is important, but we also need efficiency and controls. In the run-up to accession the candidate countries still have to overcome huge structural weaknesses in their agricultural sectors. Although SAPARD cannot be the solution, it can be the showcase how to face this challenge and how EU payments could be used also after accession: focusing on investments to improve the competitiveness of the sector also after the accession.", he said.
Fischler called on the CEEC ministers to allocate the necessary technical and human resources to this task and to have the SAPARD paying and implementing agency accredited as soon as possible. He also referred to the need for resources to be targeted on the key priorities for preparing the agri-food sector for accession. Finally, with the responsibility for project selection resting with the SAPARD Agency, Commissioner Fischler insisted that clear and transparent selection criteria and procedures are vital.
Timetable for implementation of the SAPARD programme
The financial rules for the management and control of the SAPARD Programme have now been agreed by the Member States in the management committee. These rules are based on the three principles outlined by the Commission in a communication on January 26, namely full decentralisation of programme management to an agency established under the responsibility of each country, financing arrangements based on differentiated appropriations and the application of the EAGGF Guarantee Section Clearance of Accounts procedure. This now paves the way for adoption of the Multi-annual Financing Agreements which lay down the detailed provisions for delegation of the management of the programme to the governments in the CEECs, thereby conferring full responsibility for the sound financial management of the Programme to the governments concerned.
In parallel, the Commission shall adopt the SAPARD Programme of each country within six months on the basis of the revised SAPARD plans that have now been submitted. Fischler reminded his colleagues that project selection cannot start and funds cannot be transferred until the Commission has approved the accreditation of the SAPARD paying and implementing agency. Once this has been done and the Commission has adopted the Programme, the first annual Financial Memorandum can be signed and Community financing transferred. He welcomed the remarkable progress in preparing for the accreditation of the SAPARD Agency, while pointing out that in some cases a lot of work still needs to be done. With this in mind, he outlined that one of the key concerns is to ensure that the budget appropriation for the year 2000 is safeguarded.
What is SAPARD?
The SAPARD programme was created to support the efforts being made by the Central and Eastern European applicant countries in the run-up to accession as they prepare for their participation in the CAP and the single market. The overall budget in each year of the programme's seven year run (2000-06) amounts to 520 million Euro, with the following indicative allocations:
Sapard: annual indicative budget allocations (in million Euro, at constant 1999 prices)
The decentralised approach to programming and management of the SAPARD Funds will give the future members an opportunity to gain experience in applying the mechanisms for management of rural development programmes and ease the management of the large number of small projects envisaged under SAPARD, according to Commissioner Fischler. He insisted that valuable preparation has been made for the implementation of EU rural development policies on accession.
Commissioner Fischler pointed to the importance of concentrating the funds on the key priorities for the preparation for accession. Priorities are to prepare the agri-food sector to operate at EU health, hygiene and quality standards, he claimed, and to assist the rural areas in improving the conditions for economic development to maintain or create jobs in rural areas. The Regulation implementing SAPARD(2) adopted by the Commission on December 22, 1999 - sets out the conditions for assistance in the areas eligible for expenditure such as investment in agricultural holdings and processing and marketing of products.
(1) Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development
(2) (EC) No 2759/1999