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Brussels, 1 December 2000

Farm Commissioner Fischler visits Hungary - "Going down bumpy road to enlargement finally pays"

On the occasion of his official visit to Hungary from 30 November to 1 December, Franz FISCHLER, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, underlined the European Commission's firm commitment towards enlargement. "I know that the negotiation process sometimes appears burdensome, especially in a complex field like agriculture. But it is worth it. In order to smooth the road towards accession, Hungary has to vigorously pursue the adoption and implementation of the agricultural acquis candidate countries need to demonstrate to the EU that they will be able to implement the acquis from day one of accession. Substantial progress has been made in Hungary, but a lot of work still has to be done. This holds also for the farm pre-accession programme SAPARD, where all the necessary efforts to get the SAPARD agency ready for accreditation should be made. The Commission is doing its utmost to speed up this process." Fischler also called upon Hungary to ensure that an informed national debate on the pros and cons of accession takes place. The Hungarian people have a right to know what accession will mean to their families, their livelihoods, their businesses and their farms. This is important in the towns as well as in the countryside.", he said.

On bilateral trade, Fischler showed his satisfaction that a solution on the maize export restrictions applied by Hungary could be found. „This should ensure that EU maize processors will be treated in a fair way and existing contracts will be honored. We have now initialled the wine and spirits agreement with Hungary. It should come into force on 1 January 2001 and will grant Hungary duty free access for 415.000 hl of wine.", he declared.

On the latest developments on enlargement, the Commissioner pointed out: "As stated in the Commission's "Regular Report on Hungary 2000" important progress has been made. The identification and registration of bovine animals was completed, a contingency plan for classical swine fever was drawn up or the Plant Protection Law was adopted. However, little progress was made in setting up the legal and administrative structure for the Common Market Organisations, progress in upgrading the border inspection posts has been limited."

In its Strategy Paper adopted some weeks ago the Commission puts forward a road-map to enlargement. The EU Common Positions on agricultural issues, in particular veterinary issues, phytosanitary issues and transition measures should be defined by the second half of 2001, for those agricultural issues that have not been solved and in particular issues of major importance such as direct payments and quotas the first half of 2002 is foreseen. "If the strategy outlined in the Commission's Strategy Paper is effectively pursued, negotiations could be concluded in the course of 2002 with any candidate country including Hungary, under the condition that they fulfil all the criteria for membership. This would put the EU in a position to welcome new Member States from the end of 2002.", Fischler stated

Fischler encouraged "a certain realism" regarding Hungary's demands for transition measures. He recalled that transition measures are exceptional, limited in time and scope and must be accompanied by a plan with clearly defined stages for the application of the acquis. They must not involve amendments to the rules or policies of the Union, disrupt its proper functioning or lead to significant distortions of competition. "If we talk about accession, we talk about joining a single market, not a patchwork of transition measures, exemptions and special arrangements which deprive the citizen from the benefits of an economic and political union. It is extremely unlikely that the EU would agree to transition measures relating to food safety.", he underlined.

The Hungarian SAPARD programme was adopted by the Commission in October 2000. It foresees the improvement of the competitiveness of the agricultural sector and processing industry focusing on environmental protection and seeks to enhance the adaptation capabilities of rural areas. The average annual public expenditure will amount to € 50.5 during the period 2000-2006, of which € 38.7 million will be the EU-contribution. The preparation of the accreditation of the SAPARD Agency, which has been made the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, is underway. In this context, Fischler highlighted that two processes need to be completed in order to receive the EU-funds. The accreditation of the SAPARD agency and the conclusion of the Financing Agreements. "I think we all share the objective to have the SAPARD funds transferred to hungary as soon as possible.

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