To strengthen the competitiveness of Serbia's agriculture sector, the EU will provide funding and education.
By Biljana Pekusic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 17/02/14
Serbian farmers will have access to EU pre-accession funds in 2016. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]
One of the first benefits Serbia will feel from EU accession will be in the agriculture sector, experts said.
The screening of the chapter on agriculture was held earlier this month in Brussels, where the negotiating teams met to discuss regulations on food safety.
"The EU will help us to construct what is needed to control food safety. This is an area where we will first feel the impact of European integration on the quality of our lives," said Tanja Miscevic, head of the Serbian negotiating team in the accession negotiations with the EU.
Serbia has large potential in the export of milk and meat because the country has already aligned its rules with EU regulations.
"If we do our job in this chapter, our farmers will have more opportunities to export their products to the EU market," said Agriculture State Secretary Danilo Golubovic.
In 2000, the EU opened its market to agricultural products from Serbia, but the country has only used about 30 percent of those options.
"Even with a small percentage of the options used, Serbia has had a surplus in foreign exports of agriculture products with the EU since 2004. From 2009 to 2013, exports have averaged 400 million euros," Golubovic said.
In 2016, after the country establishes the procedures and controls for the sector, Serbian farmers will have access to EU pre-accession funds.
"Serbia has already implemented a number of programmes for the education of farmers, with the support of the EU, which improve production, utilisation of resources and the introduction of appropriate quality standards," Nenad Budimovic, the secretary of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce for Agriculture, told SETimes.
Other countries in the region that are EU members have seen significant benefits to their agriculture sectors.
Given that Croatian exports were almost fully liberalised before the country joined the EU on July 1st 2013, the benefit for the country primarily was the reduction of administrative procedures for exports.
Since Croatia joined the EU, "it is easier to access the common market and large number of consumers. Access to the EU structural funds has also been a benefit for the country," Martina Sokač Saraga, spokeswoman of the Croatian Chamber of Economy, told SETimes.
"[Since joining the EU,] Croatia's advantages are quality, diversity, tradition and traditional modes of production, the climate and distinctive products with added value," she added.
To boost exports, Croatian producers can apply for grants from the "Enjoy, it's from Europe," project, that the European Commission launched 2013. The fund is worth 60 million euros annually, and provides support for promotional activities for food products, including advertising, which is important for new countries on the EU market, Sokac Saraga said.
In Romania, the EU-backed law that regulates conditions for selling agricultural land to foreigners went into effect on January 1st. In the next three years, the country expects almost 1 billion euros of investments in Romanian agriculture.
"By the facilities offered by the statute of member of the EU, Romania has improved its performance in the agricultural field, and this will continue in the future. This was proven last year, not only in agricultural production, but also by the interest that countries have shown in Romanian agriculture," Romania Agriculture Minister Daniel Constantin told SETimes.
Correspondents Kruno Kartus in Zagreb and Gabriel Petrescu in Bucharest contributed to this article.
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