Brussels, 15 May 2001
Pre-accession farm aid for Bulgaria: Go-ahead for payments for € 53 million SAPARD-programme
Today, the European Commission decided to confer the management of SAPARD aid to the Bulgarian authorities. This decision allows the Bulgarian authorities to commence the implementation of the yearly € 53 million worth SAPARD Programme for Bulgaria. Payment of a first advance can now be made. Bulgaria is the first candidate country which can now move to the operational phase of the innovative SAPARD initiative. This first decision on the provisional conferral of management of aid covers the three main measures of the Bulgarian SAPARD programme: investments in agricultural holdings, improvement in the processing and marketing of agricultural and fisheries products and, the development and diversification of economic activities and alternative income. "For the first time, the Commission has allowed a decentralisation of the management of external aid to a recipient third country. By decentralising management, SAPARD gives our future members an opportunity to gain valuable experience in applying the mechanisms for the management of in particular rural development programmes, but also for any programme involving EU-funds. I am therefore particularly happy to see that Bulgaria's considerable efforts in preparing for the implementation of this innovative initiative have led us to an unprecedented success", said Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries.
Why was the Commission Decision necessary?
In order to operate, applicant countries must have their SAPARD agency accredited. To this end, Bulgaria concluded the national accreditation work, which was accepted in the form of an Act of Accreditation by the Competent Bulgarian Authority. The Bulgarian authorities notified the Commission of this accreditation work and a complete package of information was sent to the Commission. The Commission examined, in Brussels and on the spot, the basis for the national accreditation, including obtaining supplementary information and clarification.
The Community rules for external aid such as SAPARD do not normally allow project selection, tendering and contracting to be undertaken by applicant countries without ex-ante approval by the Commission.
By decentralising management to a candidate country, SAPARD gives a future member an opportunity to gain valuable experience in applying the mechanisms for management of Community 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 Community Funds.
Payment of a first advance (maximum 49% of the annual amount) can now be made.
This decision covers the 3 main measures approved in the Rural Development Programme. A subsequent Decision conferring management will be necessary once the remaining measures are ready for implementation.
What is the current state of play in the other applicant countries?
At present, Bulgaria is the first and only country for which management of SAPARD aid has been conferred. The Commission is already analysing a request for the conferral of management submitted by Estonia. Several other applicant countries are in the process of finalising their procedures and structures.
The Special 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.
Following the adoption of Bulgaria's agricultural and rural development plan by the Commission on 20 October 2000, the Multi-Annual Financing Agreement between the Commission and Bulgaria was signed on 18 December 2000. The Bulgarian National Parliament ratified this Agreement on 9 February 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 Bulgaria for the 2000 allocation of € 53.016.122 was signed on 12 February 2001 and approved by the Bulgarian Government on 5 March 2001.
Annual financing agreements have been signed with each applicant country. As a result the appropriations available for each country for 2000 have been fully safeguarded.