Two macro-regional seminars were organised by fi-compass to raise awareness about opportunities for using financial instruments supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The events were titled ‘EAFRD financial instruments for agriculture and rural development in 2014-2020’ and took place in Madrid on 31 May and in Rome on 13 June 2016.
Both events gathered a broad audience, including EAFRD managing authorities, fund managers, bankers, investors, audit authorities, policy makers as well as stakeholders from the consultancy sector. More than 100 participants in Madrid, and more than 130 participants in Rome, coming from many Member States, had the opportunity to explore the various programming and implementing options of financial instruments under the EAFRD.
Benefiting from EAFRD financial instruments
Opening the Madrid event, Mihail Dumitru, Deputy Director-General at the European Commission’s DG Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI), explained to the audience that an intelligent and strategic mix of financial instruments will be able to provide funding where needed through attracting additional private capital, re-using the returned resources, and in this way reducing budget pressures, and channelling funds through financial intermediaries with great experience in evaluating viable projects. European and world demand for quality food is increasing and investment will be required to create a modern and dynamic agri-food sector. However, financial Instruments need to be tailored to farmers' needs. Mr Dumitru expressed appreciation for the 39 managing authorities that are currently undertaking preparations for EAFRD financial Instruments.
In Rome, DG AGRI’s Director Aldo Longo, observed that EAFRD stakeholders are standing in front of a great opportunity and financial instruments can be one of the keys to success for Member States’ rural development programmes (RDPs). He explained that financial instruments can do much more for the rural economy because they can be supported by additional private or public resources and revolving funds can help more farmers to access benefits from the EAFRD.
During the seminars, Begoña Nieto Gilarte and Antonio Flores Lorenzo from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Dr Giuseppe Blasi, Head of the Department for European and International Policies and Rural Development at the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, explained their country’s approach towards EAFRD financial instruments. The farmers' interests in financial instruments were outlined by representatives from COPA-COGECA as well as delegates from the Spanish and Italian farm unions.
Methodological support available
The importance of ex-ante assessments was emphasised during many of the presentations at both events. Such messages were reinforced in Rome by the launch of a new Methodological handbook for implementing an ex-ante assessment of agriculture financial instruments under the EAFRD.
Produced by fi-compass, this detailed guidance document for EAFRD managing authorities provides a comprehensive analytical approach towards developing financial instruments for RDPs. It offers methodological advice and step-by-step examples on how to implement the ex-ante assessment for EAFRD financial instruments. Further, new forms of fi-compass support for EAFRD stakeholders were showcased during the seminars including targeted coaching to EAFRD managing authorities.
Referring to these dedicated rural development advisory services, Luca Lazzaroli, Director General for the European Investment Bank, said, “The goal of fi-compass is to offer a starting point and learning opportunities that enable managing authorities and their partners to better understand financial instruments and to guide the ground work. These types of assistance from the EIB Group can help managing authorities make informed decisions about moving forward with financial instruments”.
Learning from exploring regulatory novelties and the experience of others
Each seminar presented the state of play of financial instruments under EAFRD and their novelties compared to the past. These changes include an increased scope of financial instruments, a greater choice of fund managers and financial instrument structures, as well as the possibility to combine EAFRD financial instruments with other means like the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).
Peer learning featured throughout the EAFRD seminars with practitioners’ explaining their experience of implementing rural development financial instruments in Spain, Estonia, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Lithuania and Hungary. EIB Group experts provided additional practical advice and insights regarding success factors for implementing financial instruments under the EAFRD.
Many participants used the opportunity to exchange experiences and clarify practical issues with experts and peers during the Q&A sessions as well as through the networking opportunities in the breaks. See the fi-compass website’s past event pages for further details of previous EAFRD seminars, including video recordings and PDF versions of all the presentation materials.