Agriculture: What will happen with the 175 million EUR of IPARD funds?

The EU has rejected the request for Serbia to be accredited to start using IPARD funds. As a result, our agricultural sector will not be able to use the 175 million EUR available from IPARD.

This unpleasant news came from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development in late August. The official Brussels cites “failing to meet the standards for establishment of administrative structure” required to use the IPARD funds as the reason. Translated from the language of bureaucracy, this means that Belgrade failed to secure enough staff to work on applications for grants. The Blic’s source from the government says that this is an embarrassment for the Ministry, and especially for Minister Snežana Bogosavljević Bošković who was at the Ministry’s helm at the time.

“The Directorate General for Agriculture has a procedure of approving the accreditation to use their funds. There are standards that have to be met and one of the most important components is to provide enough experts that are familiar with the EU legislation. We don’t have such experts so we are really baffled about why the minister even decided to go ahead with this. I guess she was counting on luck. This is a huge embarrassement for our country“ – our source says.

He adds that an auditor from the Directorate General came to Serbia in May who pointed out that the Serbian government had to hire suitable people in order to be given the accreditation. “We did not manage to do this because the competition had already been launched. We will hire 60 or so people by the end of the year. Regardless, because of our administrative shortcomings we are now not going to be able to use the European funds” – our source points out.

However, the former Agriculture Minister, Snežana Bogosavljević Bošković refutes these claims.

“I have not seen the official explanation as to why Serbia was refused the accreditation which is why I cannot comment on the situation. All I know is that when I was the minister, I did everything in my power to get this accreditation and I think that everything went according to plan. I really don’t know why we have been refused” – Bošković says for the Blic.

Agricultural expert, Branislav Gulan says that he is not surprised by the rejection from Brussels.

“Back in May, I predicted that we would not get the money from Brussels. However, the then government kept reassuring the farmers and the public that it had prepared everything for the Serbian farmers to start using these funds in July. These were empty promises because that was the time of the election campaign. Somebody has to be held accountable for this huge damage that has been done to our agricultural sector” – Gulan says.

The current Agriculture Minister Branislav Nedimović has indirectly confirmed this news.  “My associates have informed me that the request for accreditation has been rejected. I cannot comment on the reasons for this because I was not involved in the relevant activities” – the minister said for the Blic.

Joksimović: Accreditation request has not been refused

The request for the accreditation to use the funds from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Rural Development (IPARD) has not been refused – the Serbian Minister for EU Integration, Jadranka Joksimović claims.

She says that the auditors from the European Commission (EC), who came to Serbia in May, sent a report in August stating the shortcomings that had to be eliminated in order for the funds to become available and that, once Serbia does this, the European Commission will perform another external audit.

“The EC’s auditors will check again whether we have managed to eliminate these flaws. This is a process that is an integral part of the accreditation request. Serbia has not been refused”, Joksimović said for Tanjug.

(Blic, 23.09.2016)

 

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