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Brussels, 5 March 2001

Agriculture : Commissioner Fischler signs Multi-Annual and Annual Financing Agreement with Slovenia and Lithuania

European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries Franz Fischler signed on 5 March the Multi-annual Financing Agreement and the Annual Financing Agreement with Slovenia and Lithuania. As budgetary procedures have now been completed in respect of the financial commitment for the year 2000, both agreements were signed on the same day with all three countries. This brings these countries another step closer to making the pre-accession agriculture programmes fully operational. After today's signature, the implementation of the Sapard(1) Programme will require conclusion of the Agreements and the adoption of the Commission Decision on the accreditation of the Sapard Agency. Sapard aims to support the efforts made by the Central and Eastern European applicant countries in the pre-accession period as they prepare for their participation in the common agricultural policy and the single market. Mr Fischler expressed his satisfaction with the progress being made and stated: "We are edging closer to the completion of the necessary steps for the transfer of funds under Sapard. I urge our partners in Slovenia and Lithuania and in the eight other applicant countries, to continue to demonstrate their commitment to the enlargement process and to the successful implementation of the Sapard initiative." On the Annual Agreement, the deadline for spending EU-funds earmarked for Sapard in the 2000 budget is 31 December 2002. Commissioner Fischler said he intends to explore the possible justification and need for extending this deadline.

What remains to be done for Slovenia and Lithuania?

The Multi-annual Financing Agreement, setting out the rules for implementing Sapard, must be submitted to the Lithuanian Parliament for ratification. It is only after this ratification that the agreement will be concluded from the Lithuanian side. Ratification by the national Parliaments is not necessary in the case of Slovenia. The starting point for implementation of the programme depends very much on how long it takes to set up the Sapard Agency in the applicant country. As far as setting up the Sapard Agency is concerned, work is progressing in the two countries.

The subsequent accreditation is first of all a task to be carried out by the national authorities before the Commission can examine and decide on the conferral of management of aid. In the end these authorities have to construct the administrative machinery to operate Sapard on a decentralised basis. It depends therefore on the efforts made by these national authorities. When the formal act of accreditation and the supporting documentation is received by the Commission in English, the Commission will commence its formal examination of the structures and procedures at the National Fund and the Sapard Agency.

(For further details of Multi-Annual Financing Agreements, see MEMO/01/58)

(1) Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development

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