Brussels, 16 April 2002
Pre-accession farm aid for Slovakia: Go-ahead payments for EUR 18.6million per year Sapard programme
The European Commission decided today to confer the management of Sapard aid to the Slovak authorities. This means that Slovakia can now begin the implementation of its Sapard programme. Under this scheme, Slovakia will now be entitled to €18.6million 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 the five main measures of the Slovak Sapard programme: "Investments in agricultural enterprises", "Improvement of processing and marketing of agricultural and fish products", "Diversification activities in rural areas, only investments not involving infrastructure", "Forestry" and "Land consolidation".
Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, welcomed today's decision. " I am glad that Slovakia can reap the financial benefit from its considerable efforts in preparing for the implementation of these innovative programes. This money will help Slovakia to tackle priority problems in the field of agriculture and rural development. Sapard also gives Slovakia an opportunity to gain valuable experience 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 Slovakia has concluded its national accreditation work, which was accepted in the form of an Act of Accreditation issued by the competent Slovak authority. The Slovak 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 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, Lithuania and Latvia and the Czech Republic are the other candidate countries for which the management of Sapard funds has been conferred.
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 Slovakia's agricultural and rural development plan on 17 November 2000, the Multi-Annual Financing Agreement (MAFA) between the Commission and the Slovakia was signed on 26 March 2001. The Commission was informed by the Slovak Republic of the completion of all necessary national procedures for conclusion of these Agreements by letter on 18 July 2001. According to Article 9 of the MAFA this last date is the date when the Agreement entered into force.
This Agreement lays down the EU 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 Slovakia for the 2000 allocation of €18.6million was signed on 26 March 2001 whereby all necessary formalities for its conclusion were completed.