The European Commission had invited Finnish and Swedish civil servants to Brussels on Friday to discuss the development needs of the northern aid scheme. The Commission had commissioned an independent research institute to conduct an evaluation of the scheme and will discuss the possibilities for development separately with Finland and Sweden during this year. The revised schemes could enter into force in the beginning of 2009.
Based on the evaluation the northern aid scheme may in general be considered to have reached the objectives set for it as it has contributed to maintaining the traditional primary production in the two countries. Coupled payments have been an important means to reach this target, and their role as a form of support that maintains the production has become increasingly important after the reforms of the common agricultural policy. However, the reforms have also reduced the compatibility between the direct EU payments and the northern aid scheme.
Northern aid has not interfered with structural development, but it has helped to slow down the decrease in the number of farms. Even if the structure has improved, the productivity of farms is still much weaker than in the more favourable regions of the Union.
Now we need to assess whether the support scheme and its objectives and means are still up-to-date, considering the changes in the operating environment and the common agricultural policy. According to the Commission, the payments under the northern aid scheme should be better compatible with the support payments under the CAP.
By virtue of Article 142 of the Accession Treaty, the Commission has authorised Finland and Sweden to pay long-term national aid to ensure that agriculture is maintained also in the northern regions. In Finland northern aid has been paid during the whole time Finland has been in the EU in support areas C1¿C4. Aid is paid for traditional agricultural production sectors in the region, i.e. animal husbandry, including reindeer husbandry, plant production and horticulture (greenhouse production and storage aid). Northern aid scheme also includes transportation aid for meat and milk in northernmost Finland.
In 2007 northern aid was paid to almost 35,000 beneficiaries in Finland. The payments to the production of 2007 have been estimated at 328 million euros, of which the share of animal husbandry is 78%. Of the total aid 48% is paid as production aid for milk and 19% as various forms of aid for beef production. About 55% of the cultivated arable area of Finland is located in the area covered by the northern aid scheme.
Further information at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry:
Agricultural Counsellor Matti Hannula, tel. +358 (0)40 760 5954
Senior Officer Esa Hiiva, tel. +358 (0)40 733 6225