The European Union's Committee for Agricultural Structures has approved Lithuania's Horizontal Rural Development Plan worth 608 million euros, the Agriculture Ministry announced on June 23. Lithuanian farmers will receive 608 million euros in financial aid between 2004 and 2006, of which around 183 million euros should come this year. The EU will contribute 489.5 million euros of the total amount, and the rest will be financed by Lithuania.
The European Commission is expected to give the formal go-ahead for the plan in the coming weeks. "This rural development plan sends a message of encouragement to the rural areas of Lithuania. The EU is fully committed in helping to achieve a more competitive and sustainable agriculture sector, and creating new employment opportunities in the countryside," said Franz Fischler, the EU commissioner for agriculture, rural development and fisheries.
Virginija Zostautiene, director of rural development at the Agriculture Ministry, told the Baltic News Service that Lithuania was among the first EU member states to approve the rural development plan.
The European Commission confirmed Latvia's Rural Development Plan, specifying measures for agricultural development and the required funding on June 23, the Agriculture Ministry reported. The purpose of the plan is to increase farming income, develop and improve production efficiency on farms while observing environment al requirements, diversify rural economic activities and maintain population in rural areas.
Latvia's European Commissioner Sandra Kalniete is also pleased about the approved plan. "I'm sure that this program will contribute substantially to the development of Latvia's countryside. Rural areas in Latvia have special meaning as the cradle of Latvian identity," she said.
The plan envisages financial support of up to 272 million lats (411.5 million euros) for rural development between 2004 and 2006. Among other things, 74.4 percent of the Latvian territory will be able to claim the EU support as less-favored areas, the largest figure among the 10 new EU member states and well above the 30 percent rate recommended under the European Commission guidelines.
Estonia's Kohtla-Jarve Soojus is completing an application for EU funds in order to erect a new thermal power plant as an environmental project in Ahtme. Kohtla-Jarve Soojus Chairman Toomas Niinemae told the Baltic News Service on June 25 that according to present plans, financing of the more than 1 billion kroon (64 million euro) power plant would come from EU subsidies, a state subsidy, and Kohtla-Jarve Soojus' own funds (who hope to hear whether receiving a EU subsidiary is possibly by next January or February) and owners and the city of Kohtla-Jarve. Instead of oil shale, which was previously burned in the power plant's boilers, the plant will start using peat and biomass. The planned electricity capacity of the power plant, which will take about three years to build, will be 20 megawatts and the thermal energy capacity about 40 megawatts. According to present plans, the station will be launched in the fall of 2008.