• 2004-08-26
Latvian farmers who applied for direct EU subsidies before May 20 have declared 1.3 million hectares of land - 9 percent less that previously declared. Agriculture Minister Martins Roze said the result was positive, as the 100 percent level was not always reached in EU countries. "Our farmers have been active, because in old EU member states the declared land area sometimes reaches only 70 percent. The activities of our farmers show their will and ability to compete on the EU scale," said Roze. Farmers are bidding 20.66 euros per hectare in direct subsidies for common land area payments. The amount filed for cropped land is 5 percent over the initial plan - thus farmers will receive slightly less than 65.96 euros per hectare, while pastureland will get 17.90 euros per hectare. The subsidies should reach 18.1 million lats (27 million euros).

Latvia's Rural Support Service, which handles projects financed by the European Agriculture Guidance and Guarantee Fund, has stopped accepting project applications for three programs as allocated resources have already been exceeded. The investment program has formed a deficit of 6.1 million lats (9.1 million euros), the farmer support program a deficit of 750,000 lats, and product processing and marketing improvement 300,000 lats. "These results show how valuable the EU financial support is, dispersing any doubts regarding the abilities of our farmers to get Europe's money. The Latvian farmers have shown that they, while preparing the projects, have been able to meet all the criteria and requirements, contrary to concerns voiced in the media," said a ministry specialist.

The Estonian Employers Confederation has said it supported a uniform tax base within the EU, but said it was important that this didn't harm tax competition among member states. "What matters to entrepreneurs first and foremost is the competitiveness of Europe, and the unification of tax bases has to be regarded from this aspect," the head of the confederation, Tarmo Kriis, said. Besides taxes, working hours, flexibility of the labor market, existence of qualified labor, well-developed infrastructure, labor taxes and similar factors affect the development of the economy, Kriis said.

Siauliai's Financial Crime Investigation Service is reportedly prepared to charge a local farmer of fraud and unlawful embezzlement of EU funds. The Respublika daily reported that officers were led to the farmer from the central Radviliskis district by a tip that he had forged documents to embezzle more than 1.13 million litas (330,000 euros) of SAPARD money for the modernization of a cattle farm. Officers believe the farmer reconstructed his farm completely with SAPARD funds, even compensating his investment. The farmer is suspected of having recovered his expenses through artificially increasing equipment costs.