Brussels, 16 avril 2002
Pre-accession farm aid for Czech Republic: Go-ahead for Euro 22.4million per year Sapard programme
The European Commission decided today to confer the management of Sapard aid to the Czech authorities. This means that the Czech Republic can now begin the implementation of its Sapard programme. Under this scheme, the Czech Republic will now be entitled to €22.4million annually. Payment of the first advance can now be made (maximum 49% of the annual amount). This first decision on the provisional conferral of management of aid covers seven out of the nine measures which make up the SAPARD Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development for the Czech Republic. :These are: (i) "Investments in Agricultural holdings (ii) Improving the processing and marketing of agricultural and fishery products (iii) Improving the structures for quality controls of foodstfuffs and for consumer protection (iv) Land improvement and reparcelling (v) Renovation and development of villages and rural infrastructure (vi) Development and diversification of economic activities providing for multiple activities and alternative income (vii) Technical Assistance. Taken together these measures represent around 93%of the Community contribution.
Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural developmemt and Fisheries welcomed today's decision. "This is good news. I am pleased to see that after that the Czech Republic's considerable efforts to prepare for this innovative initiative the money can now begin to flow. This money will help the Czech Republic to tackle priority problems in the field of agriculture and rural development. The preparatory work pays off not only for the programme itself. It is extremely valuable preparation for the future management of EU agriculture funds."
Why was the Commission decision necessary?
In order to operate, applicant countries must have their Sapard agency accredited. To this end the Czech Republic has concluded its national accreditation work, which was accepted in the form of an Act of Accreditation issued by the competent Czech authority. The Czech authorities notified the Commission of this accreditation process and a complete package of information was sent to the Commission. The Commission examined 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 seven 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 concerning pilot agri-environment actions and vocational training.
In July 2001, Commissioner Fischler confirmed to the Czech Authorities that it would be possible for them to carry out preparatory work based on the national accreditation decision prior to the Commission's conferral of management Decision. In this context it has been possible for the SAPARD Agency in the Czech Republic to work on the measures concerned under national responsibility. This arrangement has allowed the SAPARD Agency to gain experience in undertaking preliminary assessments of the content of applications against the so far nationally approved eligibility and ranking criteria. Such work should potentially help to accelerate by several months the initiation of SAPARD in the Czech Republic.
What is the state of play in the other applicant countries?
At present, Bulgaria, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Latvia are the other candidate countries for which the management of Sapard funds has been conferred. Several others are also in the process of finalising their structures and procedures.
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 the Czech Republic's agricultural and rural development plan on 26 October 2000, the Multi-Annual Financing Agreement (MAFA) between the Commission and the Czech Republic was signed on 5 February 2001. The Annual Financing Agreement was also signed on this date. The MAFA 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.