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IP/01/1720

Brussels, 12 december 2001

Pre-accession farm aid for Latvia: Go-ahead payments for EUR 22.2 million Sapard programme

The European Commission has today decided to confer the management of Sapard aid to the Latvian authorities, enabling Latvia to commence the implementation of its Sapard programme. Under this scheme, Latvia will now be entitled to € 22.2 million annually. Payment of the first advance can now be made (maximum 49% of the annual amount). Latvia 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 following main measures of the Latvian Sapard programme: "Modernisation of agricultural machinery, equipment and construction of buildings"; "Afforestation of agricultural land"; "Improvement of agricultural and fisheries product processing and marketing"; "Development and diversification of economic activities providing for alternative income"; "Improvement of general rural infrastructure" and "Training".

Commenting on today's decision, Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries said "I am particularly happy to see that Latvia's considerable efforts in preparing for the implementation of this innovative initiative have led us to this success. The Sapard funds will help Latvia to tackle priority problems in the field of agriculture and rural development, such as the modernisation of Latvian agriculture. The preparatory work for Sapard is also an extremely valuable preparation for the instruments of the Common Agricultural Policy and in particular for Latvia'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 Latvia has concluded its national accreditation work, which was accepted in the form of an Act of Accreditation issued by the competent Latvian authority. The Latvian 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 six 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, Slovenia and Lithuania 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.

Background

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)

Bulgaria

CzechEstoniaHungaryLithuaniaLatviaPolandRomaniaSloveniaSlovakiaTotal
53.02622.44512.34738.71330.34522.226171.603153.2436.44718.606529

Following the adoption of Latvia's agricultural and rural development plan on 25 October 2000, the Multi-Annual Financing Agreement (MAFA) between the Commission and Latvia was signed on 25 January 2001. The Latvian National Parliament ratified this Agreement on 15 March 2001. The Agreement was published in the Latvian Official Journal (Latvijas Vestnesis) No 51 on 29.03.2001. The Commission was notified of these facts on 4 July 2001. According to Article 9 of MAFA this last date is the date when the Agreement entered into force. 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 Latvia for the 2000 allocation of � 22.2million was signed on 30 March 2001 whereby all necessary formalities for its conclusion were completed.


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