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14th meeting of SEE agriculture Ministers

Minister Dr Jože Podgoršek participated today in the 14th annual meeting of the Ministers for Agriculture from South East Europe (SEE) that took place in the form of an audio-visual conference. The meeting was organised by the Secretariat of the Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG) in South East Europe (RRD SWG), and by the Republic of Serbia that had taken over the one-year presidency over this Working Group. The meeting was attended by the ministers and their deputies from the Western Balkans countries, by the high representatives of the European Commission, international organisations and observer countries, and by Slovenia among the latter ones.

Minister Podgoršek at SEE meeting

Minister Podgoršek at SEE meeting | Author MKGP

Discussions involved the approximation of agricultural policy and regional development policy of the SEE countries to the EU-policies, and regional cooperation within the SEE region during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his introductory speech, Minister Dr Podgoršek sincerely congratulated the Standing Working Group for their unceasing efforts despite the Covid-19 pandemic of organising virtual meetings of agriculture ministers and high representatives of the European Commission, thus contributing to the timely and uniform actions in resolving food security in the region and in conserving viable rural areas. He congratulated the ministers of North Macedonia and Albania for having entered into the accession negotiations with the European Union, expressing support to them: “Slovenia has been and will be doing our best to continually stand by you and other countries in the region on your path of integration with the European Union”.

Minister Dr Podgoršek highlighted the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on common agricultural policy orientations, European integrations and food security in Europe and around the Globe. He presented the endeavours of Slovenia for a speedy and effective retrenchment, in its widest scope, of unfavourable consequences of the pandemic for the citizens and companies, including also agricultural producers and food businesses – thus, in the past week, the Slovenian Government passed already the 6th “anti-Corona” legislative package.

He further highlighted that for the purposes of the Covid-19 pandemic the EU had mobilised EUR 3.3 billion for the region, as immediate aid, intended in particular for the health sector and for the economic recovery of the Western Balkans countries, and pointed out that Slovenia, too, was making such efforts.

In the continuation of the meeting, Minister Dr Podgoršek told that Slovenia welcomed the incentive of the Standing Working Group, of drawing up a Joint Declaration on the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans and Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, declaring the commitment to create a sustainable food system, which shall safeguard  food safety, people and natural environment in the Western Balkans. He expressed satisfaction at the fact that in the current enlargement package, the European Commission published the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, and intended EUR 9 billion for the implementation thereof under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA III).

In the recent period (2018-2019) Slovenia had jointly with the North Macedonian Administration successfully been strengthening the development of rural structures at integration of the end-to-end structures within the LEADER approach in the country. This is a success that was recorded by the European Commission in their 2020 Progress Report on the Republic of North Macedonia’s preparations for further integration with the European Union.

And with the Republic of Serbia, Slovenia has been implementing a bilateral project of technical assistance, where the Serbian Administration is being advised on viniculture and wine-making, national quality scheme strengthening, and topics linked with organic farming, and on setting up the agriculture-environment-climate policies.

As regards Slovenia, the Western Balkans remains the priority area of developmental cooperation. Its stability and approximation to a membership in the European Union is in Slovenia’s vital and strategic interest. This is corroborated inter alia by the plans of programme of Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union to take place in the second half of 2021.