Commissioner Phil Hogan today opened the third and final EAFRD (*) Fi-Compass (**) Conference of 2015 on Financial Instruments for Agriculture and Rural Development in Riga, Latvia. With an audience of senior officials and stakeholders, above all from EU Member States in eastern Europe, Commissioner Hogan outlined the importance of financial instruments for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the need for farmers' investment demands to be properly addressed and sufficiently backed up by financial instruments under EU Rural Development Programmes (funded through the EAFRD). He also underlined that the latter may well take into account business cycles and price developments in their repayment design.
Building also on the discussions at previous events this year in Dublin and Vienna, Commissioner Hogan specified the need to support managing authorities in building up new approaches towards spending EU Rural Development funds and the benefits from combining grants and market-compatible financial instruments. In this context, he announced the launch of a dedicated coaching service for managing authorities under Fi-Compass. He pointed to the ongoing work on the loan fund model, related price-linked repayment schemes, the scheme for forestry, a study on programming of financial instruments, and the potential networking opportunities provided by means of setting up a web-based community of experts from managing authorities.
The importance of the co-operation between the Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) was underlined as a crucial element in advancing the delivery of these products. In his closing remarks, Commissioner Hogan acknowledged the interest of managing authorities and stakeholders towards financial instruments and expressed his belief that more will be achieved using Rural Development Programmes and funding, to the benefit of farmers and rural entrepreneurs, when working together and establishing best practice on using financial instruments.
The Commissioner's remarks were echoed by the Latvian Minister of Agriculture Janis Duklavs who gave his view on the future of Latvian agriculture and on the importance of ensuring sufficient and timely funding for farmers. This was further supported by COPA-COGECA and the Latvian's Farmers' Parliament, both emphasising farmers' investment needs and the challenges faced by the Latvian agricultural sector. The event saw lively discussion based on a range of presentations on financial instruments, reflecting also on practical experience from various countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, etc.) as well as the EIB group's experience in the Baltic States and with agriculture. The Conference also heard about the work being done on agriculture and rural development by the European Association of the Guarantee Institutions (AECM), from AECM Secretary-General Katrin Strum.
The event, the last of the three EAFRD-specialised conferences in 2015, increased further the knowledge on financial instruments and served as an excellent platform for bringing up experience and addressing challenges faced in the implementation of financial instruments.
Material from the event as well as from previous EAFRD-specific events can be found on the website of fi-compass at http://www.fi-compass.eu
*: EAFRD is the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development worth nearly 100 billion EURO from EU funds over the 2014-2020 period, which is co-funded by further public and private funding through 118 different national and regional Rural Development Programmes.
**: Fi-Compass is a platform for advisory services on financial instruments provided by the European Commission in partnership with the European Investment Bank for all of the European Structural and Investment funds (ESIF)