Since 2001, the European Agency for Reconstruction has managed around €70 million of assistance to Serbian agriculture.
Following the 8 January 2001 handover of the implementation of EC-funded projects from the Delegation of the European Commission to the European Agency for Reconstruction, the Agency managed an emergency programme to restore dwindling stocks of two consumer staples – cooking oil and sugar. Around 15,000 tonnes of each commodity were imported and sold at favourable prices in supermarkets all over the country.
As agricultural output was expected to decline as a result of a lack of farm inputs, in order to improve the ability of Serbian farmers to supply the population’s food needs, the Agency managed the supply of 48,000 tonnes of fertiliser and 42,000 tonnes of animal feed, funded through the CARDS 2001 Annual Programme. In addition, the Agency provided policy advice to the Ministry of Agriculture to help it develop and implement policies to facilitate the transition to market-based agricultural, food and rural economies, and to strengthen systems to demonstrate the safety of food products. With the project’s support, the Ministry prepared and started implementing market-oriented agricultural and EU accession strategies, as well as an action plan for the reform and upgrading of the network of laboratories undertaking veterinary, phytosanitary and food-safety analyses. The project also assisted the Ministry to target rural development as part of the Serbian Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and to begin the adaptation of its agricultural policies to broader based support for rural development.
Since food-safety scares and outbreaks of animal and plant diseases can have very detrimental effects on national economies and farmers’ livelihoods, a large part of the European Union’s assistance for Serbian agriculture managed by the European Agency for Reconstruction has been targeted at helping the Ministry of Agriculture to strengthen its systems to protect the health of consumers, animals and plants. The required systems are both complex and extensive, requiring appropriate legislation, the administrative capacity to enforce the legislation and infrastructure to be able to comply with the legislation. EU assistance managed by the Agency has supported Serbia in all of these areas.
The Serbian Agriculture and Health Ministries’ implementation of the plan for the reform and upgrading of the veterinary, phytosanitary and food-safety laboratory networks was supported through the CARDS 2002 Annual Programme with: the provision of technical assistance to improve quality management in the laboratories, the refurbishment and renovation of the physical infrastructure of the laboratories, and the supply of modern laboratory equipment.
The heart of the reformed laboratory system will be national reference laboratories for food-safety, residues (veterinary medicines, herbicides, pesticides and the like) and phytosanitary issues at the Batajnica laboratory complex and a national reference laboratory for the most important animal diseases (including BSE) which will be reconstructed at the Veterinary Institute in Belgrade.
Construction of the Batajnica laboratory complex started in the late 1980s when it was intended by the then Yugoslav authorities to be used as a regional gene bank, but it was never completed. This site and the buildings are now being reconstructed as a state-of-the-art laboratory complex for food safety with funds generated from the supply of the emergency food aid and the supply of farm inputs under the 2000 and 2001 support programmes.
Through the CARDS 2003 Annual Programme assistance was provided to the Veterinary Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture to prepare systems and procedures for the implementation of an EU compatible bovine animal identification and registration system. Through this support veterinary staff were trained, cattle have been tagged, animal passports printed, computers and software supplied and an awareness campaign for farmers and consumers conducted.
In addition, under the CARDS 2003 Annual Programme, technical assistance is being provided to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health to strengthen the protection of food safety through:
The European Agency for Reconstruction is also managing assistance under CARDS 2003 to upgrade facilities and to provide equipment for the conduct of veterinary and phytosanitary inspections at external border crossing points.
Projects managed by the Agency under the CARDS 2004 Annual Programme are assisting the Ministry of Agriculture in the continued strengthening administrative capacity for policy formulation and implementation. A ‘twinning’ project that partners the agriculture ministries of the Netherlands and Slovenia with the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, is helping to strengthen the latter’s structure, institutional capacity operations and procedures as well to upgrade its analytical and strategic planning and evaluation capacity. Technical assistance is also being provided to establish an effective rural development programming and monitoring capacity in the Ministry of Agriculture and to establish financial management and control systems for the economic, efficient and effective use of agricultural subsidies and rural development support schemes. In order to assist the Ministry of Agriculture to improve management and financial information systems, all departments of the Ministry were supplied with information and communication technology, which was networked throughout the Ministry to improve access to information.
Assistance being provided under the CARDS 2005 Annual Programme will further help Serbia strengthen the protection of plant, animal and consumer health. The veterinary and phytosanitary inspectorates are being supplied with equipment so that they can better undertake their tasks, ensure the integrity of samples taken for laboratory analyses, and disinfect premises if animal diseases are found. Twinning projects between EU member state and Serbian administrations will:
In addition, a twinning project will strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management to align the regulation of the wine sector in accordance with the provisions of the acquis communautaire.
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