Банкеръ Weekly

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FRANZ FISCHLER PROMISES EUR32MN MORE UNDER SAPARD

The European Commission's indicative position on the Agriculture Chapter will be considered by the Council of Ministers next month and will then be presented to Bulgaria. It will define the amount of direct payments to the Bulgarian farmers as well as the advisable quotas for production and trade in agricultural products after the country joins the community. The news was announced by the European Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler at the end of the Third General Agricultural Policy and Enlargement Conference hosted by the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture on March 16. The European Union aims at concluding its negotiations with your country in 2004. The integration agreement could be signed no sooner than 2005, but whether this ambitious schedule will be observed depends on Bulgaria and the progress that it makes, Mr. Fischler said.There is already no doubt that in 2007 Bulgaria will rely on 25% instead of 40% of the amount of payments launched to farmers in member states. Direct subsidies will be growing by 5% until 2010 and by 10% - in the years after 2010. The package offered to Bulgaria is rather fair and provides treatment equal to that of the ten countries joining the Union in the current year, the Commissioner noted. One extremely important factor for the launching of support to the growth of farming areas is the country's capacity to utilize the funds. The Commissioner did not forget to mention that the financing proposed by the European Commission (amounting to EUR617MN for the 2007-2009 period and accounting for 1.4% of the GDP) was rather generous and much higher than the one offered to Poland or Hungary, for example.Franz Fischler was also generous in praising the implementation of the SAPARD program. Sixty one per cent of the budget of this program for the 2000-2003 period has been negotiated so far in 946 projects. That's why the European Union is planning to raise the subsidies in the 2004-2006 period by other EUR32MN. The growth will be by 20% in 2004 and by 10% in each of the following two years. It means that if in 2003 Bulgaria counted on EUR56MN, in 2006 the SAPARD funds will reach EUR80MN. According to Mr. Fischler, the European Commission is ready to negotiate for restructuring the program budget, which will allow the reallocation of funds from unpopular to more attractive branches such as the processing industry and rural tourism. However, the Commissioner said, it's not only the food industry (which will not be given time for transition after the EU integration) that needs to be stimulated but also the whole chain that starts from the farms. Due to the integration of the ten new countries to the community, Bulgaria will be provided with greater opportunities to export agricultural products, both raw and processed. The Commission has already initiated negotiations with Bulgaria on the next step of liberalisation of the bilateral trade in favour of Bulgarian exporters, Mr. Fischler added.

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