Pristina 5 March 2014 - Representatives of the Kosovo authorities and the European Union met in Pristina to discuss the developments in the areas of agriculture, rural development, forestry, fisheries and food safety. The discussion is held in the framework of the regular Stabilisation and Association Process Dialogue. The discussion was extended on a wide range of topics such enhancing import controls on food and animals, strengthening food safety inside Kosovo, systematization of data entry into the animal identification, registration and movement database, agriculture import and export statistics, and the performance of Kosovo’s food and veterinary laboratory.
If these subjects were discussed in greater detail, it is in the light of Kosovo’s ongoing negotiations with the EU on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, in which trade in agriculture and agri-food products will be central. The discussions at the SAP Dialogue meeting concluded that, in matters of animal health and food safety Kosovo’s legislation has set a good basis to apply EU standards, but Kosovo needs to make further efforts to apply these standards. The forthcoming transfer of inspectors from municipalities to the central Food and Veterinary Agency will help in this. In addition, farmers need to understand better why it is in their best interests, for instance, to register animal movements, births and deaths so that food of animal origin can be traced.
Kosovo’s consumers deserve to eat food of the same safety and quality as their European counterparts. For this to happen, EU standards need to be applied at all levels: in the control of imports and exports, in the registration of animals, in what practices are allowed in growing food, in the way that food is processed, and then labelled and sold. Along the way, many control bodies intervene to guarantee those standards: health officials, inspectors, veterinarians, laboratories. These have all been set up in Kosovo and are in the process of enforcing EU standards. But food operators, whether farmers or food processers, also need to change their established practices to meet these standards. Kosovo’s efforts to convince their operators were therefore at the heart of this meeting.
The discussions also examined Kosovo’s own support to Agriculture, including coupled payments for certain produce, and a rural grants scheme to help farmers and operators upgrade to EU standards. These limited schemes have been successful and will be expanded as Kosovo increases the proportion of its budget dedicated to agriculture and food production. Such measures will help Kosovo to benefit, in the medium term, from the EU’s IPARD scheme, which is a first step in integrating the Common Agricultural Policy. There were also discussions on a number of sectors, such as Kosovo’s nascent organic agriculture, or wine (which has recently benefited from a substantial quota increase to export to the European Union).
Forestry was also extensively discussed, as Kosovo attempts to balance the economic benefits from such an extensive resource with the need to preserve these forests for future generations. Forest exploitation should be carried out in a sustainable way, which is also means controlling illegal cutting, something that Kosovo is attempting to do through a variety of strategies and action plans, at both national and municipal level.
The meeting considered how best to focus EU assistance to this sector. Agriculture and Food Safety has benefited from substantial assistance so far (for instance the EU has contributed to the rural grants scheme) and this priority will continue in the future, with EU funds being used in the coming years to build a rendering plant to help dispose of animal by-products in a clean and environmental fashion. This sector will continue to be a priority, allowing the EU to support Kosovo’s own strategies to improve standards and competitiveness.
The SAP Dialogue is a framework under which the European Union and the Kosovo administration regularly discuss technical and policy issues in relation to the European agenda. The SAP Dialogue monitors and accompanies Kosovo’s delivery on reforms, and identifies how the EU can assist in this process. Sectoral and plenary SAP Dialogue meetings are co-chaired by the European Union and the government. Each meeting results in jointly agreed follow-up actions to be taken by the Kosovo authorities.