On Monday, Croatian Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković attended the first meeting of the Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries of the European Union under the Portuguese Presidency, during which she expressed the need for additional measures to aid the earthquake-affected areas within the framework of European instruments, the Ministry announced on Tuesday.
The Portuguese presidency kicked off the meeting with a presentation of its priorities, including the conclusion of Common Agricultural Policy reform negotiations in May.
“Minister Vučković supported that approach and reiterated Croatia’s key priorities regarding the reform package: simplifying rules as much as possible, especially for small farmers; enhancing the role of member states in defining agriculture measures within the common legal framework; continuing product related payments; taking note of specific needs of member states and improving measures to stabilize the market,” the ministry noted.
The Croatian delegation pointed out the exceptionally negative impact of the earthquake on the timber sector, the rural community and farm activities, as well as the devastation caused to basic infrastructure that has resulted in difficulties in accessing the market, reduced storage capacities and disruptions in the supply chain.
In addition to direct support, other support instruments are required to facilitate access to loans and financing, the Croatian delegation underlined.
“The Croatian government’s political and economic priority is to ensure assistance and a comprehensive revitalization of the jeopardized rural areas, and the ministry is providing all the help it can in its remit, including rescheduling the Rural Development Programme,” said Minister Vučković.
Thanking Europe for its help and solidarity so far, she underlined the need for “additional effort and expert support from the European Commission and for the activation of measures from the Common Agriculture Policy.”
That includes increasing the intensity of support for investments in this area to 70%, facilitating advance payments and abolishing bank guarantees, alongside compensation for economic losses incurred by farmers in the regions hit by the earthquake.
Vučković called for “advance payments for direct support of 85% to be paid before 16 October, exemption of green fees and an extension of deadlines to complete investments from the rural development programme.”
The several Member States expressed their sympathy, understanding and support toward the victims of the earthquake. European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Janusz Wojciechowski emphasized that the European Commission is already considering the possibilities to help Croatian farmers and expressed readiness and openness with regard to the Croatian demands. /ibna