Skopje, 1st December 2014 (MIA) – The European Commission allocated grants in the amount of EUR 20 million to Macedonia for development of agriculture and rural municipalities, to be used within the two projects –the first one intended for infrastructure projects in rural municipalities and the second one for irrigation as part of the IPARD Program. By signing these two agreements, each of the rural municipalities will obtain EUR 240,000, while the urban municipalities will get EUR 120,000 each.

Agreements were signed today in the Ministry of Finance by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Zoran Stavreski, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Fatmir Besimi, Head of EU Delegation in Macedonia Aivo Orav and the World Bank’s representative to Macedonia Bekim Imeri.

As Deputy Prime Minister Stavreski pointed out, in addition to the first EU grant amounting to EUR 15.5 million, EUR 5.2 million will also be allocated from the Budget of the Republic of Macedonia, by which total amount for development of rural areas will amount to EUR 20.7 million. This Project, as he added is aimed at greater absorption of the funds the EU allocated to the Republic of Macedonia through the 2013 IPA structural funds, more precisely in the firth IPA Component for improvement and development of rural areas.

– On the basis of the experience we previously had with the World Bank and the already established practice for implementing similar projects such as MSIP, some of the IPA funds for rural development will be administered by the World Bank and in terms of operating activities, they will be implemented by the MSIP Unit within the Ministry of Finance, i.e. through the Municipal Services Improvement Project, being implemented for several years already. This Project supports the equal regional development and development of rural areas, i.e. it will be aimed at creating more quality living conditions and economic development of undeveloped areas. Thus, the Project coincides with both the priorities of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and those of the European agenda on equal regional development, Stavreski said.

Most of the funds of this Project being implemented for the first time, will be intended for investments in infrastructure projects, such as water supply, wastewater treatment, solid waste treatment, construction and reconstruction of local roads and streets, basic infrastructure providing access to electricity, energy efficiency, street lighting, construction of tourist and recreational facilities, kindergartens, youth cultural centers and everything that the municipalities will propose and assess as their priority.

– These funds the municipalities are about to obtain will be grants, without obligation for their repayment, and on the basis of the so-far preparatory activities, by the end of the month, public call will be announced, at which the municipalities will be able to apply for using these funds. Municipalities were also previously informed and most of them have already prepared projects, Deputy Prime Minister Stavreski said.

According to EU Ambassador ORAV, the EU allocated EUR 20 million under these two financing agreements to support the pre-accession measures for rural development. The first one will be implemented with two partners – the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance and it is crucial that Mayors and municipal Councils select the projects in close consultation with their citizens for making the best possible use of these grant funds. Second project is untended for irrigation and it will be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy. The purpose of this Project consists of identifying and preparing small-scale irrigation projects, environment friendly, with low investments costs and additional European resources will be allocated for their implementation.

– By signing these agreements, EUR 23 million of EU and national funds will be directly channeled to rural areas and their citizens. I believe this is a great opportunity to re-affirm that Europe cares for rural population and farmers not only in the EU but in the other countries as well, EU ambassador Orav said.

Deputy Prime Minister Besimi said today’s package composed of two financing agreements within IPA, is part of the ongoing 2007-2013 IPA, thus completing the cycle, by which EUR 67 million was envisaged for development of agriculture and rural development.

– Under these funds for rural infrastructure, Macedonia keeps pace with the EU countries as regards climate changes and water management. In fact, EUR 2 million will be intended to identify and locate the capacities of the Republic of Macedonia for using and introducing irrigation systems in the most efficient manner. This will additionally help IPA 2, where EUR 106 million is envisaged, being also EU grants for 2014-2020, Besimi said.

WB’s representative, Imeri said that EUR 15.5 million for support of rural development will be used as additional financing for the ongoing Municipal Services Improvement Project, being the first jointly financed project between the EC and the World Bank.

The signing ceremony of the EC grant agreements was also attended by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management Mihail Cvetkov and Toni Dimovski Director of the Agency for Financial Support in Agriculture and Rural Development, which will implement the irrigation project.

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