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Brussels, 26 March 2001

Slovakia takes next step towards €18 million farm programme

European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries Franz Fischler will today signe the Multi-annual Financing Agreement and the Annual Financing Agreement for 2000 with the Slovak Republic. This represents a key step towards the implementation of the pre-accession agriculture programmes and towards the enlargement of the European Union. Before the disbursement of the €18,289 million per year earmarked for Slovakia can start, the agreements signed today have to be formally concluded and the Slovak SAPARD Agency has to be accredited by the Commission. 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. The deadline for spending EU funds earmarked for SAPARD in the 2000 budget is 31 December 2002.

Mr Fischler expressed his satisfaction with the progress being made and praised the Slovak Republic's hard work and determination in this process. "We are approaching the completion of the necessary steps for the transfer of funds under SAPARD. I urge our partners in the applicant countries to continue their efforts and remain committed to the enlargement process from which the successful implementation of the SAPARD initiative is an important part."

What remains to be done for Slovakia?

The Agreements will enter into force on the date when both Contracting Parties have notified each other of the completion of all necessary formalities for their conclusion. No submission of the Multi-Annual Financing Agreement, setting out the rules for implementing SAPARD, to the national parliament is foreseen in the Slovak Republic. The starting point for implementation of the programme depends on how long it takes to set up the Sapard Agency in the applicant country. As far as this setting up is concerned, work is progressing in Slovakia. The subsequent accreditation is first of all a task to be carried out by the competent authority in the Slovak Republic, before the Commission can examine and decide on the conferral of management of aid. In the end national 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 Slovak authorities have notified the Commission of the conclusion of this accreditation work and the Commission has received a complete package of information 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 on SAPARD and the Multi-Annual Financing Agreements, see MEMO/01/106)

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