Romanian farm subsidies

BUCHAREST – Romania pledged yesterday to make its system to disburse European Union cash to farmers fully functional to avoid sanctions from Brussels and initiate first payments from next year, Agriculture Minister Dacian Ciolos said. The European Commission gave Romania one month to November 9 to overhaul its agricultural payments system or face cuts of hundreds of millions in annual farm subsidies. The Commission said that to avoid sanctions Romania should fix its computerized animal database and gather more information on exactly how much land individual farmers owned as its identification system did not work. «We accelerated the pace of land controls and we hope to finish it in due course,» Ciolos told reporters after meeting with EU Commissioner for Multilingualism Leonard Orban. «We installed and tested the last informatic module and there are only minor issues to be addressed… today, tomorrow we hope that all this blockage will be solved.» The agency distributing the cash has said a module designed to authorize and compute the level of EU aid – the final step to make its Integrated System for Control and Administration (IACS) fully functional – was to be finalized by yesterday. All EU countries are supposed to use an electronic system called IACS to monitor the distribution of farm subsidies. Its functions include land registration as well as other general audits. Ciolos said he could not say exactly when the first payments to farmers would start flowing: «It is hard to estimate but probably that will hapen at the beginning of next year.» The EU is expected to decide on November 27 whether to withhold or not up to 25 percent of direct payments to Romania, Orban said. «The decision will be 100 percent based on reality in the field. If electronic systems are operational, the decision will be positive.»