Slovakia: agricultural news week 4
In this agricultural newsletter for Slovakia you can read about: The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) closed three administrative investigations in 2020 into possible misuse of EU funds for agriculture in Slovakia - 4 cases of Avian Influenza in 2021 confirmed - African Swine Fever spreads further
Investigations closed into possible fraud EU-subsidy
Press release OLAF 21/01/2021 - The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) closed three administrative investigations in 2020 into possible misuse of EU funds for agriculture in Slovakia. Findings include irregularities in direct payments and systemic weaknesses in national verification procedures.
Under EU funds for agriculture, direct payments are granted to farmers in the form of a per-hectare basic income support. In 2020, OLAF concluded three investigations, which concerned allegations linked to direct payments in Slovakia. The three OLAF investigations looked into direct payment applications made between 2013 and 2019 by several companies.
The first investigation – closed in March 2020 – analysed applications with claims that overlapped on given land plots. The investigation did not confirm any irregular payments, as it found that the land plots, for which entitlement could not be determined beyond doubt by national controllers, were declared ineligible for the given year by the Paying Agency. Subsequently, none of the farmers concerned received payments for the land plot.
The second investigation was closed in June 2020 and focused on applications submitted by one company suspected of intentionally claiming EU payments on ineligible land. The investigation established numerous issues, for example ineligibility of the land because its main use was other than agricultural activity, breach of the obligation to maintain the permanent grassland in good agricultural condition and other irregularities.
The third investigation was closed in December 2020. The investigation identified how certain areas that had been claimed for years by some companies were in fact not covered by legally valid lease contracts.
In addition to the specific payment-related findings, OLAF’s investigations uncovered several weaknesses in the control and management system for direct payments in Slovakia. OLAF found that controls are very limited on whether the disposal of land by an applicant is lawful. While the farmers should be able to prove their right to use the land via for example a lease contract or a document attesting their ownership, this is verified only in the case of overlapping claims – that is, when two or more farmers claim the same plot of land.
OLAF’s analysis also revealed that the internal verification procedures adopted by the Slovak national authority in charge of the management of agricultural land under State ownership or land without a known private owner should be improved as regards its transparency and legal certainty. There were also questions whether the process was applied in an efficient and non-discriminatory way.
As a result of the shortcomings in the verification processes, OLAF considers that overpayments could amount to more than one million euros. OLAF has addressed its findings through recommendations to the competent authorities. Two cases were closed with financial and judicial recommendations; the third one was closed with no recommendations but its findings were taken into account in the administrative recommendation, which was issued in relation to the three cases.
Full press release from OLAF: https://ec.europa.eu/anti-fraud/media-corner/news/21-01-2021/olaf-closes-cases-eu-agricultural-funds-slovakia_en
Four occurences of AI confirmed
The Ministry of Agriculture confirmed on January 29 the occurrence of four cases of bird flu in 2021 in Slovakia and calls on breeders to be careful. The infection was diagnosed in Košice, Bratislava, Kalinkov (Senec district) and Dobrohošť (Dunajská Streda district). Breeders must report prudential and suspicious cases immediately to the veterinary report. Avian influenza also appeared in Slovakia in the same period of the previous year.
The National Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza (Avian Influenza) in Zvolen (NRL Zvolen) announced the positive result of the examination for avian influenza for the fourth time this year. The first case was confirmed on January 7 in dead ducks kept in the Košice Zoo. On January 15, they diagnosed bird flu in a dead wild swan from the Veľký Draždiak water area in Bratislava. Another case in Slovakia is from January 22, when a positive result appeared in the breeding of domestic poultry, at a smallholder in the Danube-Central village of Dobrohošť. Just a short distance away, they recorded the most recent case. On 28 January, the NRL Zvolen confirmed a positive occurrence of the disease in 2 large swans found on the island on the Danube River within the cadastral area of Kalinkovo (Senec district).
Read about the first outbreak this year here
African Swine Fever (ASF) spreads further
On January 26, the Ministry of Agriculture informed that African swine Fever (ASF) has spread in the territory of the Slovak Republic to the fourteenth district. The district of Gelnica was added to the districts of Trebišov, Michalovce, Košice-okolie, Košice-mesto, Rožňava, Rimavská Sobota, Vranov nad Topľou, Prešov, Bardejov, Sabinov, Revúca, Veľký Krtíš and Sobrance. Since July 2019, when the disease appeared in Slovakia, we have registered 933 cases in wild game and 28 outbreaks in domestic pigs.
On 19 January 2021, a positive result for ASF in a wild boar found within the cadastral area of Smolník was confirmed by the National Reference Laboratory in Zvolen (NRL Zvolen). Subsequently, on 21 January 2021, the NRF Zvolen confirmed the ASF infection also in wild boar caught in the cadastral territory of the municipality of Mníšek nad Hnilcom.
The incidence of the disease in the Gelnica district is not so surprising, as several cases of ASF have been recorded in neighboring districts (Rožňava, Košice-okolie and Prešov) in recent months. Occurrence in this area could therefore be expected.
The relevant Regional Veterinary and Food Administration will issue measures for the defined hunting grounds in accordance with the valid legislation of the EU and the Slovak Republic, which are to prevent further spread of the disease, resp. ensure that it slows down.
In Slovakia, hunters have ordered intensive hunting of wild game. However, wild boar hunting was significantly affected by the situation surrounding the measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly limited the possibility of organizing joint hunts and traveling to another district for hunting. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic (MPRV SR) enabled hunters to hunt wild game all year round, regardless of gender and age, also for 2021.
The current development of the situation and an overview of all cases can be found her: