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Sapard annual report - year 2000      Full text [ pdf ]

Executive summary

This is the first report produced by the Commission on the Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development, Sapard.

Using financial support from the Community budget amounting to over half a billion euro per year in the period 2000 to 2006, Sapard is to assist 10 applicant countries of central and eastern Europe make structural improvements to their agricultural and rural environment. In addition to primary agricultural production, projects to improve product processing, marketing and quality are eligible for support, as are more general rural development measures.

Support under Sapard is to be granted on the basis of a single agriculture and rural development programme per applicant country. The content of each programme reflects priorities established by the national authorities, depending on the particular circumstances and needs of their country, within limits set under the basic Council Regulation.

Sapard programmes are to a large extent comparable with Member States' agriculture and rural development programmes. The exercise of programming was entirely new for the candidate country administrations who had to draw up those programmes. Nonetheless the programmes for all 10 countries were ready and approved by the Commission in the autumn of 2000.

Another implication flowing from the programme approach with Sapard is that, unlike the other pre-accession instruments Phare and ISPA, where at least some key points are managed by the Commission, with Sapard the Commission is not involved in any such key points, not even project selection. For Sapard an alternative approach was chosen, whereby the national authorities in the applicant countries would assume entire responsibility through fully "decentralised management". This was done to enable the underlying objectives of the Sapard instrument to be realised. One is to implement numerous small scale projects, in principle, throughout the rural areas of each country and the other to create structures which will be capable also of applying the acquis immediately upon accession. However, this approach required two major exercises to be accomplished before aid could be granted.

The first exercise was essentially regulatory. This exercise was needed because no Community legislation is binding on any applicant country. Since Community money is involved, an appropriate set of provisions covering all aspects relevant to the proper use, control and accountability of funds had to be negotiated with the applicant countries, then set out in bilateral international agreements with them. By the late autumn these negotiations had been completed. That allowed signature of the agreements with the various countries to begin already before the end of the year.

The other exercise required the establishment in each applicant country of an agency capable of implementing Sapard in a manner consistent with the legal provisions negotiated. By the end of 2000 a considerable amount of work was accomplished by the applicant countries to build their Sapard agencies. However, no applicant country had a Sapard agency ready to receive funds and therefore no Community Sapard monies could be transferred to any applicant country by the year-end.

This report details the work done in 2000. It also describes certain developments in 2001 where they are closely linked to that work. This includes the observation that two applicant countries have now received Community Sapard funds and others are making significant progress.

Readers of this report are invited to bear in mind that the Sapard instrument involves Community budget resources. Accountability for their use is crucial. Sapard is also an exercise in practical institution building, whereby organs in each applicant country are created and given important management responsibilities, including that of accounting for these resources. This work will be of inestimable value once the countries become Member States. It is however a major task, because for all applicant countries both the concept and the practice of granting public money to support the large number of investments envisaged under Sapard is unprecedented.

Overall the applicant countries made great strides in 2000 towards constructing systems capable of managing the Sapard instrument correctly. The Commission acknowledges the enormous efforts made by a great number of people in each applicant country and their continuing, dedicated, hard work to prepare for Sapard to become operational, although in certain cases these efforts are unlikely to be sufficient to allow Sapard funds to flow before end 2001.

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