Brussels, 30 November 2001
Pre-accession farm aid for Lithuania: Go-ahead payments for EURO 30.3 million Sapard programme
The European Commission has today decided to confer the management of Sapard aid to the Lithuanian authorities, enabling Lithuania to commence the implementation of its Sapard programme. Under this scheme, Lithuania will now be entitled to € 30.3 million annually. Payment of the first advance can now be made (maximum 49% of the annual amount). Lithuania is the fourth candidate country to move into the operational stage of the innovative Sapard initiative. This first decision on the provisional conferral of management of aid covers the four main measures of the Lithuanian Sapard programme: Investments in agricultural holdings; Improving the processing and marketing of agricultural and fisheries products; Development and diversification of economic activities providing for multiple activities and alternative income; Improvement of rural infrastructure and Vocational Training.
Commenting on today's decision, Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries said "I am pleased that the Sapard money can finally start flowing. The preparatory work for Sapard pays off not only for the programme itself. It is also an extremely valuable preparation for the instruments of the Common Agricultural Policy and in particular for Lithuania's future management of EU rural development funds."
Why was the Commission decision necessary?
In order to operate, applicant countries must have their Sapard agency accredited. To this end Lithuania has concluded its national accreditation work, which was accepted in the form of an Act of Accreditation issued by the competent Lithuanian authority. The Lithuanian authorities notified the Commission of this accreditation process and a complete package of information was sent to the Commission. The Commission examined, in Brussels, the basis for the national accreditation, obtaining supplementary information and clarification as part of a detailed audit.
The EU rules for external aid such as Sapard do not normally allow project selection, tendering and contracting to be undertaken by the applicant countries without ex-ante approval by the Commission.
By decentralising management to the candidate country, Sapard gives a future member an opportunity to gain valuable experience in applying the mechanisms for EU funds, as well as obtaining the benefits of a rural development programme. On a broader front, the investment in this new Agency will build skills that will be readily transferable to the management of other EU funds. Implementation of the Sapard scheme is therefore of major significance to each of the candidate countries.
The Decision covers five key measures in the rural development programme. A subsequent decision conferring management will be necessary once the accredited Sapard Agency is ready to implement the remaining measures.
What is the state of play in the other applicant countries?
At present, Bulgaria, Estonia and Slovenia are the only other countries for which the management of Sapard funds has been conferred. However, several other applicant countries are in the process of finalising their structures and procedures. The Commission is in the process of preparing a decision, expected in December, regarding the conferring of management of Sapard funds to Latvia.
The Special Pre-Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (Sapard), provided for in Council Regulation EC No. 1268/1999, aims to support the efforts made by the Central and Eastern European applicant Countries as they prepare for their participation in the Common Agricultural Policy and the Single Market. It has two major objectives: first, to implement the "acquis"; second, to solve priority problems in the field of agriculture and rural development.
Annual indicative budget allocations (in € million, at constant 2000 prices)
Following the adoption of Lithuania's agricultural and rural development plan on 27 November 2000, the Multi-Annual Financing Agreement (MAFA) between the Commission and Lithuania was signed on 5 March 2001. The Lithuanian National Parliament ratified this Agreement on 21 June 2001. The Agreement was published in the Lithuanian Official Gazette No 74-2587 (Valstybes zinios) and the Commission was notified of these facts on 29 August 2001. This Agreement lays down the Community management and control rules for Sapard for the whole programming period (2000-2006) and includes the principle of full decentralisation of programme management to an agency established under the responsibility of the applicant country. The Annual Financing Agreement between the Commission and Lithuania for the 2000 allocation of € 30.3 million was signed on 5 March 2001 whereby all necessary formalities for its conclusion were completed.