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Procedure : 2002/2007(COS)
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Document selected : A5-0124/2002

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Thursday, 13 June 2002 - Strasbourg
SAPARD (annual report 2000)

European Parliament resolution on the Commission's Sapard Annual Report - Year 2000 (COM(2001) 341 – C5&nbhy;0009/2002 – 2002/2007(COS))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission's Report (COM(2001) 341 – C5&nbhy;0009/2002),

–   having regard to Rule 47(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the opinions of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy and the Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy (A5&nbhy;0124/2002),

A.   whereas the main priorities of the Sapard instrument with regard to the prospective accession of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CCEE) to the European Union are to contribute to the implementation of the Community acquis concerning the common agricultural policy and related policies, and to solve priority and specific problems for the sustainable adaptation of the agricultural sector and rural areas in the CCEE,

B.   whereas the agricultural sector in the CCEE plays a crucial role in certain respects for the economy and employment; whereas, therefore, the success of enlargement is dependent to a considerable extent on the successful integration of the agricultural sector in the CCEE into the EU"s agricultural market; whereas the Commission should ensure that professional and training exchanges are encouraged between farms and farmers, particularly young farmers, in the current Member States and the CCEE,

C.   whereas the pre-accession strategy in the agricultural sector must be brought into line with developments in WTO negotiations and the outcome of the mid-term review of Agenda 2000,

D.   whereas, although the Sapard regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 1268/1999 of 21 June 1999 on Community support for pre-accession measures for agriculture and rural development in the applicant countries of central and eastern Europe in the pre-accession period(1)) was adopted in mid-1999, the first paying agency of an applicant country was not operational until December 2000; whereas, by the end of 2001, only insignificant sums (approx. EUR 30 million) had been channelled into the CCEE from the Sapard programme,

E.   whereas responsibility for the management of Sapard has been transferred to the CCEE; whereas, therefore, Sapard will be implemented on a completely decentralised basis and only with ex-post control by the Commission in accordance with the financial management principles of the EAGGF, Guarantee Section,

F.   whereas the delay in implementing the Sapard programme is attributable to the need to create the requisite administrative conditions for appropriate financial management of decentralised administration in the CCEE,

1.  Welcomes the gradual and perceptible progress made by the CCEE in the agricultural sector as they move towards accession to the European Union;

2.  Is deeply concerned that preparations for the accession of the CCEE are being considerably hindered in the agricultural sector by the delay in implementing the Sapard programme; stresses that the 2004 target for the first round of enlargement brings considerable pressure to bear on the process of adapting CCEE agriculture;

3.  Acknowledges the fact that public opinion in most applicant countries was not fully and accurately informed about the reasons for the delay in receiving Sapard funding, which increased scepticism in applicant countries towards the enlargement process; invites the Commission and the applicant countries to improve awareness about this specific pre-accession instrument, especially in rural areas, by explaining it in simple and accurate terms and by strengthening support for training of the rural population in order to enable all actors to participate in planning and project implementation;

4.  Regrets that the management of Sapard funds was transferred to only five CCEE: Bulgaria, Estonia, Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania;

5.  Regrets the fact that the difficulties which were already apparent in 2000 initially with regard to the content of the programme and subsequently to the setting-up of paying agencies have still not been completely overcome, and that this development is having an adverse impact on the structural changes which must be made in the CCEE prior to accession;

6.  Calls on the Commission to provide a written statement, by the month of June 2002, with detailed and specific information on the outstanding obstacles to the transfer of Sapard funds to applicant countries at that time, including the accreditation of Sapard paying agencies;

7.  Regards the fact that there was no take-up of funds at all in the financial year 2000, and only insignificant amounts in 2001 for the implementation of Sapard, as a sign that Sapard has been poorly organised insofar as its aim is to provide effective development aid prior to accession;

8.  Points out that the CCEE will probably have great difficulty co-financing the Sapard programme as they will have to incorporate the budget resources originally set aside for 2000 and 2001 as an additional factor in their budgets for 2002, 2003 and later; calls therefore on the Commission to take appropriate measures to ensure that Sapard funds are not forfeited as a result of the late implementation of the programme;

9.  Recognises the problems that some CCEE have in setting up paying agencies to which, in order to protect the financial interests of the Union, rightly the same criteria of efficiency, quality and confidence must apply as to the management and control structures in the Member States, and must note that it is proving difficult for some applicant countries to set up such agencies, as the necessary human and technical resources are often lacking;

10.  Hopes that the available EU funds will now be used as promptly and productively as possible to support the various agricultural sectors in adapting to the new economic environment following accession;

11.  Asks the Commission to provide regular updates, throughout the year 2002, on experiences with Sapard-funded projects, in order for Parliament to closely monitor these politically important investments in the rural areas in applicant countries;

12.  Calls on the Commission to examine whether - with the agreement of the CCEE - it would improve the uptake of appropriations if the Commission were to allocate a certain amount of Sapard funds centrally;

13.  Points out that, on average, only 11% of Community appropriations for Sapard are earmarked for the development and diversification of agriculture in the CCEE; considers that there is an urgent need for greater support to create alternative sources of income and strengthen civil society in the CCEE in the context of promoting rural development, as there is considerable overmanning in the sector which may lead to a massive rise in unemployment following accession if their agriculture is subjected to the full pressure of competition from the present Member States; draws attention in this connection to the great importance of education and training as part of the required retraining and restructuring programmes;

14.  Endorses, therefore, a reorientation of the Sapard Programme so that greater support is given to the creation of alternative employment possibilities in rural areas, since this would fit in with the EU"s concept of multifunctional agriculture and would reduce the social problems which will be caused by the inevitable job losses in the agricultural sector in the CCEE resulting from their accession to the EU;

15.  Calls, therefore, on the Commission to submit a proposal enabling funding to be used under SAPARD, and making use of the implementing agencies set up for SAPARD, for creating additional employment and income and strengthening civil society in rural areas of the CCEE, taking a 'bottom-up' approach along the lines of the Leader programmes in the EU;

16.  Calls on the Commission to make available the budget funds upon which it can draw for the preparation of 'bottom-up' programmes pursuant to Article 7(4) of Regulation (EC) 1268/1999;

17.  Seeks an agreement with the Council and Commission to amend the financial perspective in order to make additional funds available for pre-accession measures in rural areas;

18.  Points out that by implementing such an Inpard programme as of 2003 prior to accession, structures can be set up for use by the Leader programme following accession and valuable experience can be gained;

19.  Calls on the Commission to ensure, when the Sapard Programme is implemented, that the approved state aid in the agriculture sector in the CCEE is compatible with the obligations entered into by both the EU and the CCEE at the WTO;

20.  Calls on the Commission to promote, under the Sapard Programme, the rapid compliance of the CCEE with the EU"s health and plant health norms and its animal welfare provisions, since this would help to prevent any distortions in agricultural trade between the EU and the CCEE;

21.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments of the ten applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

(1) OJ L 161, 26.6.1999, p. 87

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