Dr. Franz FISCHLER
Member of the European Commission, responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries
Perspective of CAP in the enlarged EU
Warsaw, 12 September 2002
Honourable Members and Senators,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now that the entry negotiations have entered their decisive phase, I feel it is time that I met the elected representatives of the Polish people. I am therefore very grateful for this opportunity to talk to you today, Ladies and Gentlemen. You have major responsibility for Poland's preparations for joining the EU and making it a success, and are thus a particularly important talking partner for the Community's agricultural Commissioner at the moment.
Poland's accession to the European Union involves fully integrating your country into the EU's institutional, political, legal and economic structure on the basis of the "acquis communautaire". In legal terms, this process involves the adoption and enactment of the existing body of Community legislation. Against this background, the role of the parliamentary bodies in preparing and completing accession in an applicant country such as Poland cannot be overrated. The gradual adaptation of national rules and regulations to EU legislation i.e. the core of the "acquis" is an enormous task. In many areas this will involve overcoming the resistance of interest groups and call for major powers of persuasion. The complex discussions on how to deal with "Wyborowa" vodka are just one example of this that springs to mind. I trust this trade mark will continue to be protected under the relevant Community rules. Over the last few years, you, Ladies and Gentlemen, and your predecessors have worked successfully to move Poland bit by bit and law by law towards adoption of Community legislation. I would like to express my thanks and appreciation, and at the same time the hope that all of you will continue down this path and until accession is completed deal with any outstanding legislative issues and bring them to a successful conclusion.
But this is only the first step. Passing laws and acts will not be enough. The Community's agricultural regulations and aid schemes in particular can only bear fruit if they are properly applied and put into everyday practice. I am not stressing this as a tribute to red tape on the contrary, building up the required administrative structures is an essential task to enable guaranteed prices, rural development aid and direct payments to be applied. You must finish this work before accession takes place. You in Parliament play the decisive role here, because no-one else can vote through the posts and budget funds required.
As a former agriculture minister of an applicant country and the Commissioner responsible for the common agricultural policy, I know that setting up a well-trained administrative infrastructure costs time and effort. Your own government has experience of this with the Sapard programme. Some of you may at times have been surprised or exasperated by the variety of audit and inspection requirements "from Brussels". But experience teaches us one thing: sooner or later there is a price to be paid for carelessness in handling public funds. Seen in this light, Poland's efforts to build up an effective and reliable Sapard administrative system are an investment in the future. Even though it has taken longer than expected to get Sapard up and running, the benefits of the experience gained in setting it up will be reaped when the common agricultural policy and particularly rural development policy are fully implemented after accession.
This does not mean that the Polish Sapard administration is anywhere near completion. Regrettably, up to now the Commission has only been able to approve a few measures, and there are indications that Sapard management could be made less bureaucratic and more flexible.
There is therefore enough room for improvement, and this must be taken advantage of, because only then will Sapard be able to make its contribution to bringing the Polish agricultural sector up to EU standards. I would remind you that the EU provides funding of about €170 million every year for Sapard in Poland. Compared to previous enlargement rounds, in which pre-accession aid was completely unheard of, this is no small amount.
I must say that the establishment of a Polish administrative and control system to enable direct payments to be made is still a cause for concern for me. If this system does not work properly, there is no way that Community direct payments can begin to be made. I can therefore only encourage you to make every effort to ensure that the system is ready for operation by the time of membership. There must be no repeat of the regrettable events which have led to EU Phare funds being blocked and in some cases withdrawn in the last few months.
In this connection I would like to say a few words on the "simplified" system for making direct payments: I do not deny that I was a little surprised at Poland's rather cautious reaction to this offer, because the simplified system provides considerable administrative advantages, particularly as regards livestock premiums and farmland registration and inspection. I therefore encourage you to take a very close look at the benefits offered by the simplified system and consider using it. The scheme is more flexible than many people think.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
From the very beginning the issue of direct payments has been at the centre of the entry negotiations. At first glance this may be understandable, but to my mind it has had the detrimental effect of cramping the debate. First of all, as I see it, the Commission's reasons for its proposal to gradually introduce direct payments were more than convincing. You, Ladies and Gentlemen, know your country's agricultural structures better than anyone else. You are therefore more aware than most of the deficiencies and productivity problems in large parts of the Polish farming sector, and cannot deny that what Polish agriculture needs most is not income aid that maintains structures as they are, but funds for modernisation and restructuring. For that reason the EU is offering you a generous package of funds and measures for rural development. Under this, the Guarantee Section of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund alone will provide more than €800 million every year from 2004 to 2006 to develop Polish agriculture into a sustainable and competitive sector. Further funding will come from the Guidance Section, but the amount provided will essentially depend on how highly you yourselves rate rural development when drawing up your Objective 1 programmes. My advice on this is clear: given the problem facing rural areas in Poland, rural development policy should be the top priority.
I can only urge you to seriously consider the EU's offer on rural development and recommend it to Poland's agricultural community. This will also involve explaining the EU's proposed negotiation package, and for the sake of fairness you should also point out what failure to join the EU would mean.
In view of the importance of rural development in Poland, I am particularly surprised to see that some people are currently trying to take agri-environmental measures out of the Sapard scheme. I think that would be going down the wrong track. As is repeatedly pointed out, Polish farming in particular is low-impact farming in environmental terms. It is therefore surprising to see that Community support for environmental measures is not given the attention it deserves and even complete withdrawal from such measures is being contemplated.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you know, the EU is currently debating the Commission's proposals on the mid-term review of the common agricultural policy. These are aimed at greater sustainability in Community farming and taking agricultural policy further in that direction. This will revolve around three key objectives:
The measures proposed under the recent mid-term review will also make it easier for the new Member States to become integrated into the common agricultural policy.
The fact that the discussions on the mid-term review coincide with the final phase of the accession negotiations is not a new phenomenon for the European Union. In previous enlargement rounds as well, the common agricultural policy continued to be developed during the negotiations without delaying or stalling the accession process already underway. However, it was and is important to keep these two processes strictly separate to avoid any interference or delays. For this reason, irrespective of any discussion within today's Community, we will continue to pursue the goal of concluding the enlargement negotiations by the end of the year on the basis of existing agricultural legislation. If the conclusions of the mid-term review make it necessary to adjust the results of the negotiations to a new situation, we see no objections to that.
Like the other applicant countries, Poland's decision on joining the European Union will be by referendum. It will thus be up to its citizens to finally bring the Polish nation back into the fold of free European nations. This underlines the weight of the responsibility which you, Honourable Members and Senators, bear. In particular it falls to you to explain to the Polish people what the results of the negotiations mean and to show them where the road inside or outside the European Union leads to. This is an enormous task, and a major challenge. A challenge that needs to be taken up without delay. Therefore I think it is essential to inform the public of all the issues from the very beginning and not shortly before the referendum is held. This is the only way that they can be expected to objectively weigh the pros and cons and arrive at the right decision.
Nevertheless I am convinced that in your country especially it will not just be a matter of winning over people's minds, but also their hearts. In that respect I see myself as an ambassador for the European idea, which today, as was the case fifty years ago, centres on achieving the peaceful and friendly coexistence of Europe's peoples and nations. This is the key goal in our striving to integrate Poland and the other applicant countries into the EU, and I am confident that we will be able to successfully complete 'mission accession' in the near future. I therefore hope that my visit to Poland and my talks with you will go some way to achieving that goal.