The Round Table on agriculture and rural development in the Western Balkan countries and Turkey has been held in Berlin on January 17th, 2016.
The Round Table was initiated by the Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group in Sound East-Europe (SWG) in cooperation with European Commission DG AGRI and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) of Germany.
The Round Table was chaired by H.E. Christian Schmidt, Minister of Food and Agriculture of Germany, Mr. Boban Ilic, SWG Secretary Genera
Ministers of Agriculture of Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo* as well as Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina participated on the event. Serbia was represented by the State Secretary.
The discussion focused on three main topics:
- Strengthening regional cooperation on agriculture and rural development in the Western Balkans;
- Facilitating cross-border (intra-region and with EU) trade in agri-food products;
- Key issues on IPARD (rural development programmes under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance).
H.E. Christian Schmidt underlined that the main challenge for the WB agriculture and food sector are the EU accession process, as well as
the increase of the competitiveness of the agro-food sector. Minister confirmed that Germany remain committed to continue to have active role in providing support to WB countries.
Mr. Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner underlined that progressive trade liberalization with the EU and within the region is important to permit the EU integration process.
WB countries were encouraged to continue with the reform process, especially in building up-capacities, ensuring appropriate cooperation of all technical services, as well as intensifying the dialogue with the banking sector.
The participating Ministers in the addresses re-affirmed the committed to the European Union (EU) integration process of the Western Balkans countries and commitment in aligning the national agricultural and rural development policies with the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Ministers expressed appreciation for the EU support for rural development through the IPARD instrument in the pre-accession period, providing respected assistance for gaining experience in designing EU compatible rural development programs and in managing EU funds.
Regional cooperation in exchange of experiences, knowledge in the EU approximation process as well as, resolving trade related obstacles was considered as one of the key priorities.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.