K.Gerhards: Outlined is a strong position by Latvia to develop an equal support policy for farmers in Baltics
Tuesday, May 7, Kaspars Gerhards, the Minister for Agriculture, held a meeting with Phil Hogan, the European Union Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, in the course of the meeting, discussions addressed the changes in the EU support policy, which are necessary for development of Latvian agricultural sector, including the amount of direct payments and ceilings for direct payments.
During the negotiations, K. Gerhards, the Minister, pointed out that as compared with other EU Member States, the support, offered to Latvia, is considerably lower, and inequality is clearly visible here. It is necessary to changes the situation already in the next programing period. Moreover, Lithuania and Estonia are in similarly unequal situation, where, just as in Latvia, in the last 15 years, farmers have received considerably lower support from EU.
K. Gerhards, the Minister: “It is essential to take account of the history of Baltic States that has also left impact on the situation today. The voice of each Baltic State separately has less weight than a unified opinion and joint position. Therefore, the Ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia formed the joint position already beforehand to firmly appeal to the EU to form the support policy equal for all the EU Member States. We jointly presented this position on April 16, in Strasbourg when meeting Gunther Etinger, the Commissioner for EU Budget and Human Resources, whose attitude was supportive and motivating for us to continue working as the joint team of Baltic States.”
The Minister also drew the attention of Phil Hogan to the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture has commenced a huge work, shaping Latvian position and development policy in cooperation with farmers and NGO. As one of the take-off points, the Minister mentioned, five regional conferences, held in regions of Latvia. Within these conferences, the Minister, representatives of the Ministry and the Latvian Advisory and Education Center discussed with farmers the most topical issues and problems, as well as the sectoral development guidelines – from the viewpoint of those involved in the sector. The information collected at the conferences will be used for molding of the sectoral development strategy, as well as to set the attainable objectives.
“I am satisfied that our cooperation with Phil Hogan already started during Latvian Presidency. It has been going on all this time in a positive atmosphere and mutual understanding. I believe, that in future we will also continue the development-oriented communication and cooperation with the European Union, “said the Minister.
Whereas, the Commissioner, Phil Hogan, said during the discussion that he supports a full adjustment of direct payments for EU farmers. However, he emphasized the need to comply with the environmental requirements, pointing out that these requirements must correlate with feasible possibilities to implement them. Therefore, the European Commission offers a vast scope of opportunities – more than 60 measures, from which Member States can chose the most suitable for them and integrate them in their States. Responding to what Phil Hogan said, K.Gerhards, the Minister, pointed out that in order to implement the environmentally friendly measures, Latvian farmers must receive a fair funding. If there is a requirement to comply with common environmental conditions all over the European Union then allocated support must also be fair. There must not be such a situation permitted, when the requirements are common for all, but the support is considerably different.
During negotiations, the Minister for Agriculture also addressed the political aspect: “Upon approaching elections to European Parliament, more and more politicians and general public pay attention to the Common Agricultural Policy. It is obvious that agricultural policy is included in pre-election work plans of all the parties, and it must be emphasized that the National Union, already at the beginning of this Government convocation has started a comprehensive work at the Common Agricultural Policy both at the level of Latvia and the European Union. Improvement and development of the sector of agriculture is one of our primary objectives, as agricultural sector constitutes almost 40% of Latvian exports and it is an essential part of Latvian national economy. The more we are able to impact the sectoral development, the more positive impact it will leave on Latvian national economy.”
Adviser to the Minister for Agriculture