Brussels, 14 April 2004
Green light for EUR 250 million rural development programmes for the Czech Republic
In a letter to the Czech Agriculture Minister, EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler confirmed agreement on the country's Operational Programme for Rural Development and Multifunctional Agriculture. It will be formally approved upon accession on 1 May 2004. The programme, covering the whole territory of the Czech Republic, except the capital of Prague, includes a broad range of ambitious rural development measures which give a special emphasis to the replacement of outdated technologies, increase of competitiveness, consolidation of land ownership, protection of environment as well as to the stabilisation of existing work places in the Czech rural areas. The financial allocation is significant. The European Union's contribution, € 173.9 million during the period 2004-2006, will be complemented by national public funding of € 76.7 million. This political agreement concludes the Commission negotiations to launch the Structural Funds Programming for the Czech Republic for the period 2004-2006.
Announcing this agreement Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, said that the Czech government was to be congratulated for the efforts and the progress made to prepare the future structural funds programmes in the Czech Republic. He added "We must continue these efforts over the next few months so that the programme can be up and running quickly. For the Czech Republic we want to achieve ambitious objectives: a more competitive and sustainable agricultural sector in and an integrated development of rural areas aiming at the improvement of the income level and the creation of additional job opportunities of the rural population".
The implementation of the programme will be supervised by a Monitoring Committee, which was established already at the end of 2003, representing all partners involved. This committee is responsible for the efficient application and fine tuning of the measures in favour of agriculture and rural development as a tailor-made instrument which promotes all opportunities existing in rural areas.
The priorities in the programme are defined by the Czech authorities. According to the principle of subsidiarity, the Czech authorities decide about the projects benefiting from EU support under the condition that these decisions are based on objective criteria and that all procedures are transparent and well policed. Commissioner Fischler invites the competent Czech authorities to speed up all administrative procedures necessary to take full benefit from this generous financial allocation in favour of rural areas to improve the economic cohesion inside the European Union.
The Rural Development and Multifunctional Agriculture Operational Programme is based on the following priorities.
Support to Agriculture, Processing of Agricultural Products and to Forestry, with an EU contribution of € 97.5 million, aims at greater competitiveness and adaptation to the European market conditions, to increase labour productivity, added value and quality of agricultural products and thus to increase agricultural incomes. Some advantages provided to young setting-up farmers can also have a very positive effect on the unfavourable age and educational structure of rural population. Further diversification of agricultural activities, creation new employment opportunities in alternative sectors in rural areas will also certainly have a positive impact on life in rural areas and will contribute to the removal of economic and social disparities between sectors as well as regions.
Rural Development, Fisheries and Vocational Training, with an EU contribution of € 73.4 million. In view of repeated floods, one of the objectives of this Priority II is to restore the agricultural production potential damaged by floods and to built new or to reconstruct existing flood protection facilities. The main objective of reparcelling is to clarify the ownership rights to parcels, to make adjustments in the shape of parcels, to provide for their use, and to actually demarcate them. The implementation of the LEADER+ type sub-measure will enable on the one hand a preparation of pilot local action groups, a preparation and implementation of their integrated development strategies and on the other hand a training of others interested in the LEADER+ Community Initiative. The support for the improvement of the processing and marketing of fish products, aquaculture, and actions by professionals in fisheries is designed to contribute to a higher competitiveness of the businesses operating within the sector of agriculture.
Technical Assistance, with an EU contribution of € 3 million, will assist in the implementation of the programme.
The total public expenditure to implement the programme is set at € 250.6 million for the period 2004-2006. This includes a financial contribution of €173.9 million from the European Union: € 166.6 million from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, Guidance Section and € 7.3 million from the Financial Instruments for Fisheries Guidance.
The Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic will be the Managing Authority for the programme.
The Treaty of Accession provides that the Czech Republic may benefit from the eligibility of expenditure under Structural Funds as of 1 January 2004, subject to full compliance with EU policies and legislation, including environmental protection, public procurement, competition and State aids, financial management and control.
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