Picture: Jānis Dūklavs, Minister for Agriculture of the Republicof Latvia and Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agricultureand Rural Development
The fi-compass seminar in Riga focusing on the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) highlighted the benefits of financial instruments which ensure the re-use of public funds, particularly through guarantee funds in agriculture and rural development. Participants exchanged on the importance of pinpointing the exact needs of final recipients, as well as the type and size of instruments that would address them.
Picture: Junona Bumelyte, European Investment Bank; Merle Saaliste, Ministry of Agriculture, Estonia; Bernd Schuh, Austrian Institute for Regional Studies and Spatial Planning; Anton Asparuhov, Director, Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Bulgaria; Szilvia Bencze, Ministry of Agriculture, Hungary
The benefits and the possibilities of EAFRD financial instruments were stressed by the opening speeches of Commissioner Phil Hogan and Latvian Minister of Agriculture Mr Jānis Dūklavs. The key message in this seminar was the positive belief that more can be done for rural development using financial instruments, and that there is great potential in this field. Commissioner Phil Hogan stressed that agriculture is the EU’s largest employer and a stand-out success story of the European economy in the last challenging years, while several managing authorities and associations highlighted farmers’ high level of commitment to paying back their loans and creating positive spillover effects for their communities. Depending on the target group, as was shown by the case studies presented, different instruments can be applied in combination with other support mechanisms from EU or national funds.
Over the course of the day, the practicalities of implementations, as well as lessons and tips, were described by managing authorities and financial intermediaries who have implemented, or are implementing, financial instruments for rural development. The views of farmers were expressed both by audience members and, among others, by two farmers’ associations – COPA-COGECA and the Latvian Farmers’ Parliament, who along with the audience brought a strong perspective on what is needed for farmers and final recipients generally. Three managing authorities from Bulgaria, Hungary and Estonia shared their concrete experiences of EAFRD financial instrument implementation, including the first and essential regulatory step in 2014-2020 of the ex-ante assessment. The European Commission and the European Investment Bank highlighted how fi-compass can support such instruments through methodological advice, workshops, guidance and case studies. Two support products being considered for inclusion in the 2016/7 fi-compass work programme were well received: Targeting coaching on FI for EAFRD managing authorities and networking (face to face and virtual) of their experts on financial instruments.
Picture: Event participants
The fruitful discussion, among over 87 participants from 13 EU countries, highlighted the optimism of managing authorities, financial intermediaries, paying agencies, final recipients and others regarding the opportunities for financial instruments to contribute to agriculture and rural development in 2014-2020. Such a cross-section of interests underlined the importance of financial instruments for the future development of EU agriculture and rural areas.