How to overcome the pitfalls of the IPARD fund for agriculture?
During the pre-accession period, a number of countries in the region followed almost the same path as Serbia using EU funds for agriculture.
According to the latest official data, of the 175 million euros available from IPARD, 50 million have been contracted from Serbia to date and around 19 million have been disbursed. The money can be used until 2023, and the state expects advance payments to users, as a novelty, to speed up the withdrawal of the money.
How successful have other countries been and what were the biggest pitfalls that farmers and the administration initially faced and can Serbia avoid? The experiences are different in countries which have long benefited from generous European funds.
“You can’t expect IPARD to solve all of your problems. The initial money you take out should first be used to strengthen the whole system, ”said Saša Bukovac, deputy director of the Croatian Agency for Payments in Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development.
He shared some of his experiences with representatives of the media and of the Ministry of Agriculture who were in Zagreb a few days ago, as part of the “Pulse of Europe – EU media visits” project. He says it is the job of the state to analyze money in the right way and ensure its purpose. This can easily be achieved even if you “spend all the money on ten strong companies capable of financing projects on their own”.
According to him, European funds were particularly mystified in public as something impossible to obtain and requiring a mountain of paperwork. Meanwhile, the EU has tightened its control, so the procedures have become more demanding.
“When you are a candidate country, then you are in an unequal position. The regulation prescribes one thing, but as a country which is not yet a member, something else is expected of you, ”admits Bukovac.
Joining the EU opens a new horizon with a lot more money and opportunities, adds Bukovac. His advice to Serbia is to choose specific measures to fund and provide technical assistance on time. He also warned that it is difficult to come out of an unfavorable situation when the response from potential fund users is poor and it has taken Croatia four to five years to get the same number of fund applicants as it did. during the first pre-accession fundraising period.
This article is also available in: Italiano