FINANCING FROM SAPARD EXPECTED TO INCREASE BY 20%
In the beginning of next year Bulgaria is expected to negotiate with the European Commission (EC) financing under the SAPARD programme for 2004, that will be 20% up from the money for 2003. That was explained by Agriculture Minister Mehmed Dikme after on December 28 together with Finance Minister Milen Velchev they signed an additional agreement for the 2003 programme with the EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel. Thus, approved financing from SAPARD for the year 2003 was raised by EUR386,059 and the agreed money for assisting agriculture in Bulgaria increased from EUR56,133,539 to EUR56,519,598.The raising of funds, according to Mr. Dikme, was necessitated by the improved absorption of money under the programme. Implemented and paid projects under SAPARD are worth EUR120MN, up 21% from the earmarked financing under SAPARD for the entire 7-year period, Mr. Velchev pointed out. According to Finance Ministry statistics, the aggregate value of contracts signed under SAPARD is EUR356MN. And that is more than 62% of the total budget of the EU pre-accession programme, in accordance with the National Plan for Agriculture and Rural Development in the January 1, 2000 - December 31, 2006 period. The increased speed of absorption of the EU funds gives the Agriculture Minister grounds for optimism. He expects funds under the agreement for 2004 to go up by some 20% from 2003. The agreement will be signed in the beginning of 2005 and according to Mr. Dikme the EC will approve financing under SAPARD amounting to EUR67MN. The money will be earmarked for projects in the sphere of the foods-processing sector and for development of country tourism. Immediately after the financial plan is approved, application for the allocation of funds will begin. At present it is suspended as all money received so far under the pre-accession programme for the two sectors has already been absorbed.