La Valletta, 3 October 2003
“Much has been achieved, more has to be done”, EU Farm Commissioner Fischler says in Malta
At the occasion of his official visit to Malta, Franz Fischler, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries congratulated the Maltese people for the clear and coherent choice made in favour of joining the EU. “In all respects, Malta has achieved remarkably good results in the accession negotiations. This is all the more true in agriculture. Malta got a tailor-made package and obtained results that no other candidate country obtained. The EU clearly recognised the unique circumstances of Maltese agriculture. For the years 2004 to 2006, Maltese farmers can count on € 24 million for rural development measures and € 4 million for agricultural market support”, Mr Fischler said. He stressed that Malta must continue its preparations for membership. “It is of paramount importance that Malta not only continues, but accelerates its efforts to strengthen the administrative capacity in agriculture. Let there be no mistake. Weaknesses in running the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would not only prevent Malta from benefiting fully from membership. It would also mean that the EU would have to claw back EU subsidies which have not been properly spent. This would clearly not be in Malta's or the EU's interest! In this context, I can only stress the urgent need to complete the setting-up of the paying agency and the control systems to be ready by accession“, he said.
The Commissioner pointed out that Malta had much to gain from a reinforcement of the EU rural development policy. “Maltese agriculture has to adapt to new conditions of competition. Rural development measures will assist farmers in restructuring and improving their marketing strategy. It is hence of utmost importance for Malta to complete its rural development programme. Malta risks losing money if the programmes are not ready on time”, he said.
Commissioner Fischler explained why he believed the Maltese government negotiated a favourable accession deal.
Malta may use special temporary state aids in sensitive sectors to support agricultural producers.
For tomatoes, the European Union granted Malta reference quantities that go far beyond its current production. In the wine sector, Malta has obtained specific planting rights to increase the present 500 ha of vineyards to 1000 ha.
Malta got unique exemptions in rural development. Due to its limited size and the special context of its agriculture, the whole archipelago of Malta has got the status of « less-favoured area ».
An ad-hoc measure designed to assist Maltese farmers adjust to dismantling of import levies has been created.
Other special arrangements concerning agri-environmental measures and the support of producer groups have been agreed.
While all new member States have obtained a general three-year economic safeguard clause, Malta obtained a two-year extension covering the sensitive agricultural products concerned by the State aid scheme.
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Following a meeting with representatives of the Maltese fisheries sector, Commissioner Fischler stressed the EU's commitment to ensuring that Malta's effective efforts at conserving fish stocks in the waters under its jurisdiction continue. To this end, the Commission will shortly propose measures ensuring the regulation of access to the 25-mile coastal band in accordance with the guidelines in the Treaty of Accession.
Mr Fischler encouraged Malta to use the EU pre-accession financial support to strengthen its administrative capacity in fisheries management through training, data collection and equipment for the monitoring of fisheries activities.
Malta would benefit from the initiatives currently under way to enhance international co-operation in fisheries management in the Mediterranean, Mr Fischler predicted. He spoke of the forthcoming ministerial conference, organised by the Italian presidency and the European Commission, in Venice on 25-26 November on achieving responsible and sustainable fisheries in the Mediterranean. He also referred to a meeting that had taken place on 29 September in Malta to pave the way for the creation of a Mediterranean association, grouping operators from the whole region.
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