site.btaUPDATED Minister Tahov Briefs EU Commissioner Wojciechowski on State of Agriculture in Bulgaria

Minister Tahov Briefs EU Commissioner Wojciechowski on State of Agriculture in Bulgaria
Minister Tahov Briefs EU Commissioner Wojciechowski on State of Agriculture in Bulgaria
EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski (left) and Bulgarian caretaker Agriculture Minister Georgi Tahov at a news briefing at the Council of Ministers, Sofia, May 21, 2024 (BTA Photo)

Bulgaria’s caretaker Minister of Agriculture and Food, Georgi Tahov, has briefed the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, on the state of agriculture in Bulgaria, highlighting that the problems caused by the COVID-19 crisis, Russia's war against Ukraine and its economic impact have severely affected farmers in this country and in the EU. This transpired at a news briefing at the Council of Ministers following a meeting between Wojciechowski, Tahov, and caretaker Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev on Tuesday.

Tahov said that their proposals to the European Commission include a reduction of the administrative burden on farmers to enhance the predictability of aid flows. The Minister also proposed that the period for the implementation of projects under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 be extended by one year, suggesting that projects be completed in 2026.

He called for an increase in the limit for farmer aid aimed at mitigating the economic impact of the war in Ukraine. Tahov argued that in some countries in Europe, the aid is calculated per hectare of land or per animal, so large farmers have already reached the cap back in 2022 and have been unable to benefit from direct payments ever since.

Tahov added that the European Green Deal standards should be imposed on both EU Member States and non-EU countries that use the European market. "We are well aware that this will be a long-term discussion, but we really hope it will start here in Sofia," the Agriculture Minister said.

Wojciechowski said that with its agricultural production, Bulgaria is important for ensuring food security across the EU, especially in times of hardship.

In his words, it is important to visit a country that has largely felt the negative impact of both the pandemic and Russia's war against Ukraine. He noted that the impact on farmers is tangible, adding that he had the opportunity to discuss these issues with President Rumen Radev, the Agriculture Minister, MPs, and other stakeholders.

The European Commissioner stressed that a series of restrictions placed on farmers by the European Green Deal have been removed in response to their concerns. He noted that the obligation for them to devote a minimum share of 4% of arable land to biodiversity has also been removed, and this is now optional.

Wojciechowski drew attention to the Member States’ flexibility in choosing the period during which the measures are to be applied. Each Member State currently has the option to choose the period according to its specificities.

He said that there is a significant number of farms under 10 ha in Bulgaria (over 100,000), noting that they are not subject to the control and sanction systems that apply to the rest. 

The Commissioner went on to discuss the Russian aggression in Ukraine, which led to blocking grain export corridors in the Black Sea and increasing Ukrainian produce that reaches the EU.

Wojciechowski said that Bulgaria is among the most affected countries, adding that the value of agricultural imports from Ukraine to Bulgaria amounted to EUR 1 billion in 2022. He pointed out that Bulgaria is probably the country where farmers have received the largest amount of state aid, EUR 452 million.

Replying to a question, the Commissioner said that a bigger budget will be needed for the common agricultural policy after Ukraine joins the EU because the present one would be insufficient. He specified that 0.4% of GDP is allocated for agriculture in the EU and noted that this funding will probably have to increase in the future.

/RY/

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By 15:06 on 18.06.2024 Today`s news

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