It's half a year before the European Union will take in ten new members, including the Czech Republic. Perhaps the most painful issue both before and after accession is the agricultural policy. EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, Franz Fischler, paid a visit to the Czech Republic a few days ago to discuss the issue.
In an interview in Monday's daily Pravo he stated that big farms are the Czech Republic's main advantage compared with the other nine countries set to join the EU next May as well as the standing member states. In the year 2000 a support program, a human resource development for the skill training of farmers, was instigated for EU candidate countries funded by the common funds of the EU, the Ministry of Agriculture in the Czech Republic, and local entrepreneurs. According to Hugo Roldan, spokesman for the ministry of agriculture, preparations for the subsidies given in 2000 were very well done and many farmers in the Czech Republic applied, perhaps contributing to the Czech Republic's good standing among the other acceding countries. Mr. Fischler also attended the conference on agriculture and trade at the forum 2000 at the end of last week, where it was agreed in the outcome of the conference that bad subsidies are those that encourage overproduction. Mr. Fischler stressed in his assessment of the Czech Republic the need for greater incorporation in the use of countryside into the economy. Meaning, in order to achieve viability in the areas based solely on agriculture we need to find other lucrative uses of land, for example agrotourism. Finding other uses of countryside creates job opportunities, and opens the land to those who live in the city. By further collaboration with small farmers there is also possibility for enrichment in current big farm production with older techniques in food preparation - quite a positive assessment in terms of sustainability. In a statement chosen as the best quote of the forum 2000 "Preoccupation with shorter-term self interests...failure to recognize common interests that embrace the needs and expectations of others" stated by Ken Ash, deputy director for food, agriculture and fisheries at the OECD, is truly what is lacking in terms of ensuring stabilization of agriculture. Despite certain problems with the establishment of a payment agency that would manage and distribute European and Czech money earmarked for farmers after the country's accession, Mr. Fischler said the Czech Republic is in the foreground among the acceding countries.
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