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IP/02/961

Brussels, 28 June 2002

Pre-accession farm aid for Poland: Go-ahead for 171.6 million Euro Sapard payments

Commissioner Franz Fischler has today signed a decision to confer the management of Sapard aid to the Polish authorities, enabling Poland to commence the implementation of its Sapard programme. Under this scheme, Poland will now be entitled to grant aid of which the EU contribution is € 171.6 million annually. Payment of the first advance to the SAPARD euro account in the National Fund can now be made (of about € 40 million). This first decision on the provisional conferral of management of aid covers three main, and two supporting measures of the Polish Sapard programme: "Improvement in processing and marketing of food and fishery products", "Investments in agriculture holdings", "Development of rural infrastructure", accompanied by "Vocational training" and "Technical assistance". With today's decision, all CEEC countries except Hungary and Romania have their SAPARD programmes up and running. This decision will be formally adopted in the days to come.

"I am delighted that finally also Polish farmers will benefit from EU money to restructure and prepare for Poland's EU accession. I know, the road to the SAPARD funds has been cumbersome. That is now history. What matters now is that the administration of the scheme, now in Polish hands, works efficiently. Poland should see the efforts made to properly manage and control the EU money as a down payment for enlargement. Upon accession, the SAPARD structures can be used for certain CAP policies.", Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries said.

Why was the Commission Decision necessary?

In order to operate, candidate countries must have their Sapard Agency accredited. To this end Poland has concluded its national accreditation work, which was accepted in the form of an Act of Accreditation issued by the competent authority in Poland. The Polish authorities notified the Commission of this accreditation process and a complete package of information was sent to the Commission. The Commission examined (in Brussels and in Poland) 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 candidate countries without ex-ante approval by the Commission.

By decentralising management to the candidate country, Sapard gives a future Member State an opportunity to gain valuable experience in applying the mechanisms for EU funds, and to obtain 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 participating candidate country.

The Decision covers five 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 Candidate Countries?

At present, Bulgaria, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are the other candidate Countries for which the management of Sapard funds has been conferred.

Background

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 candidate 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)

Bulgaria

CzechEstoniaHungaryLithuaniaLatviaPolandRomaniaSloveniaSlovakiaTotal
53.02622.44512.34738.71330.34522.226171.603153.2436.44718.606529

Following the adoption of Poland's agricultural and rural development plan on 18 October 2000, the Multi-Annual Financing Agreement (MAFA) between the Commission and Poland was signed on 25 January 2001. The Commission was informed by Poland of the completion of all necessary national procedures for conclusion of these Agreements by letter on 18 May 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 candidate country. The Annual Financing Agreement between the Commission and Poland for the 2000 allocation of €171.6million was signed on 29 March 2001, whereby all necessary formalities for its conclusion were completed.


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