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SOFIA – Bulgaria is important in terms of agriculture and ensuring food security throughout the European Union (EU). This was stated by the European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski at a joint briefing at the Council of Ministers in Sofia with the interim Minister of Agriculture and Food Georgi Tahov.

The Commissioner added that it was important to visit Bulgaria, which has felt a great extent of the negative impact of the pandemic and the war of Russia against Ukraine. He pointed out that during the talks with the Minister of Agriculture and the interim Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev the need to increase the budget for agriculture after the adoption of Ukraine into the EU was discussed. The Commissioner noted that for now 0.4% of the EU’s gross domestic product is directed towards agriculture.

Wojciechowski added that under the EU’s temporary state aid rules Bulgaria is among the countries that have provided the most resources to agricultural producers. According to him, farmers in the country have been supported with 452 million euros in state aid.

Minister Tahov noted that it is necessary for the direct payments to Bulgarian farmers to be aligned with the level in other EU countries.

He added that the administrative burden on farmers should be eased to ensure predictability. Tahov emphasized that it is necessary for the European Commission (EC) to make more timely decisions for securing payments to farmers.

One of the difficulties for agricultural producers is the timely implementation of projects under the Rural Development Program 2014-2020. Bulgaria’s request is for the EC to allow the deadline for settling payments under projects from the old program to be extended by 12 months, clarified the minister.

Commissioner Wojciechowski also spoke with President Rumen Radev. The two agreed that food security is crucial for the stability of Europe and its citizens, especially given the challenges in recent years. According to both, the requirements for European agriculture should also apply to imports from abroad.

From May 15 in Bulgaria, the payment of aid to agricultural producers affected by the import of Ukrainian goods through Bulgaria began. The so-called “Ukrainian aid” was included in an agreement between the farmers and the government on February 12 and was supposed to be paid by April 22. The decision to pay the aid was made by the cabinet of Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov following protests by agricultural producers. Nearly 52,000 agricultural producers who will receive about 300 million leva (150 million euros) will benefit from the aid.

At the beginning of March, the EC paid 61.3 million euros to support Bulgarian farmers, grain producers, and oilseed cultivators. On March 25, the commission approved another 86.9 million euros in aid for Bulgarian livestock breeders, beekeepers, fruit and vegetable producers, oil rose growers, wine producers, and tobacco producers. At that time, the commission presented data according to which Bulgarian farmers are among those most affected in the EU by Ukrainian agricultural imports. (22.05.2024)