THU, 25 SEP 1997 20:51:16 GMT
**It is to be expected that once it enters the European Union, the Slovenian agriculture will experience quite a shock.
AIM Ljubljana, 23 September, 1997
For the majority of states from the one-time "Eastern block" membership in the European Union was (and still is) something else. The Slovenians thought along the same lines, although their contacts with the developed part of Europe have, for quite a while, been on a somewhat higher level than it could be said for the majority of states which were politically and economically linked to the former Soviet Union. Therefore, the associate membership in EU, as well as the proposal of the European Commission regarding possibilities for initiating negotiations between Slovenia and the European Union regarding its full membership, represent an important step forward. This is of significance primarily for the economy, as it would mean a direct access to the joint EU market, which is much larger than the small Slovenian one. Still, agriculture is in a slightly different position.
It is common knowledge that Slovenia needs a new agricultural policy concept. The analysis "Slovenian Agriculture and the European Union", presented at the recent International Agricultural-Food Fair in Gornja Radgona, should represent one of the essential tools of the Slovenian state for its quicker inclusion in the European Union. As authors warn, agriculture is a special and, most frequently, fundamental problem of every state when joining the Union, since even minimal differences in agricultural prices, as well as in budget subsidies, drastically change the earlier status of farmers in that respective state.
We can therefore expect the shock that the Slovenian agriculture will experience after it becomes full member of the EU, to be great. Slovenia can count with the deterioration of the financial position of its agriculture by 25 - 30 percent, which doesn't apply to all its sectors. Here of great importance is food-processing industry, which it seems is shy about its results. But, despite all, things are not as bad as they may seem. EU membership should bring positive changes, at least as regards the system which would in turn ensure greater stability for agriculture. Once agricultural production becomes competitive, price policy will also have to be changed in many respects. In addition, EU policy should serve less to protect and more to encourage competition.
Cefta also serves as a good preparation for Slovenia to join EU, especially in the field of agriculture in which negotiations on the liberalization of trade in agricultural products between Slovenia and other Cefta members have been the main topic of discussion during last two years. There are many other problems which emerged during the recent Conference of Prime Ministers of Cefta members held in the Slovenian sea resort Portoroz. The most important problem is the fact that some of the states from this group are on the list of those of invited to join the European Union, while others aren't.
Since Slovenia is among the invited ones, it is already seriously considering reforms in agriculture. It is clear already now that by joining EU the state will practically transfer all jurisdiction for the implementation of agricultural policy to joint European institutions and bodies. Common agricultural policy was determined already in the founding act of the European Economic Community - the 1957 Rome Treaty. This document is based on three principles: common market (single market), favouring of domestic production (market-price protection) and financial solidarity of member states (common budget). As a result of conflicting objectives and very different comprehension individual members have of the role and importance of agriculture in the Union, the elaboration of agricultural policy is a very complex process.
Compared to developed west-European countries and despite a marked decrease, the share of agriculture in gross domestic product in Slovenia is still rather high (according to 1995 data it amounts to 4.7 percent in Slovenia, while it is only 1.8 percent in EU). Similar share of agriculture in the national economy is registered only in the less developed EU members Greece and Portugal. In the last decades the Slovenian agriculture developed under specific political and economic conditions which is best seen in its agrarian structure. While EU carried out intensive structural changes, on the territory of the former Yugoslavia only social sector enjoyed special benefits. The development of private farming was discriminated against through various measures - starting with the limiting of land ownership to the prohibition of private ownership of tractors and other heavy farm machinery. Consequently, the development of private agricultural sector lagged behind that in the countries of Central Europe. It should also be added that Slovenia did not have its own agricultural policy till 1991.
In Slovenia it shall be necessary to place special emphasis on the professional farms and to increase the competitiveness of food industry. All this and many other things in this sector should not only be studied, but also implemented, in the shortest possible time. Namely, agricultural policy will be an important element in evaluating the eligibility of Slovenia for full membership in the European Union.