At the opening of the forum Agriculture Minister Valeri Tsvetanov said the EU program for the rural regions, where agriculture and tourism can be combined, offers possibilities for development.
The future lies in the promotion of agrarian tourism in the country, said Plamen Mollov, Chairman of the Vine and Wine Chamber. The EU-financed program involves vine conversion and specific policies to the advertising of Bulgarian wines.
"The culprits for the suspended payments under SAPARD will be dismissed," Tsvetanov said later in the day. The question is about employees of the Agriculture Fund having accepted documents which do not meet the conditions. According to Tsvetanov, Agriculture State Fund Director Dimiter Tadarukov is not to be held responsible because the violations dated from 5-6 years back - long before he assumed his present position.
The Minister has set up a commission, which is leaving for Brussels on July 1 to get familiarized on the spot with the criticism relating to the absorption of EU funds. He observed that the Paying Agency employees use a language which is not understandable by the potential beneficiaries of the funding. Tsvetanov is about to launch a tour of the regional services of the Agriculture Fund so as to check the employees' fitness to perform their duties.
The funds agreed with the EU for rural development for 2007-2013 have been earmarked for broadening job opportunities outside agriculture and improving access to services and the rural quality of life. These activities will be supported with nearly 1,000 million euro, Tsvetanov said at the opening of the conference.
The agriculture minister stressed that the suspended funding for two measures of the pre-accession SAPARD Program should not be linked in any way to the implementation of measures under the Rural Development Program for 2007-2013.
One of the main priority axes of the latter is Axis 3, which focuses on the rural quality of life and the diversification of the rural economy. The measures relating to this axis are intended to improve the quality of life and diversify job opportunities.