Agricultural policy as a voting machine
As a candidate country for accession to the European Union, Macedonia is expected to put in place laws and administrative procedures to introduce the changes necessary to support policies based on the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU. However, the evolving agricultural policy in Macedonia remains a significant factor in helping an oppressive regime gain votes. This is hardly what the constituents in EU Member States expect. The business of policies being designed to put money into the hands of those who support the political party is clearly a failure in EU oversight.
The European Commission is supposed to be providing EU-funded support to bring about the necessary changes through the IPARD the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance in Rural Development. This has two objectives:
- to provide assistance for the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy
- to support sustainable change of the agricultural & rural economy
These are to be delivered through measures on market standards and efficiency (investment in farms, processing & marketing and establishing producer groups), introducing environmental measures (development of appropriate environmental actions and local development strategies) and development of the rural economy through development of infrastructure, activity diversification, training and technical assistance.
In spite of the EU Accession Progress Report of stating that producer groups had not been established, the Ministry continues to resist this because this would bring immediate benefits to farmers. Producer groups are EU requirements under what is known as the Common Market Organization as a basis for consolidating market information as well as policy making around important products. Producer organization help farmers lower the prices of what they use for production, such as seed, feed, fertilizer and pesticides. Output process can be increasingly stabilized if producer groups integrate processing or marketing activities. The overall effect is also to stabilization of consumer prices at accessible levels, of vital importance in a low income country. These are fundamental objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union.
IPARD funds technical assistance projects where consultants from EU countries are contracted to help explain how to organize policies, set up administrative systems such as institutions, design and introduce appropriate information management systems and provide advice on best practice in policy-making. According to staff at the Ministry of Agriculture most agricultural policy-related projects run into trouble. It is the purpose of IPARD to support consultants who provide orientation and advice on improving operational policies, but the strong political agendas within the Ministry, under the control of people linked to VMRO–DPMNE, undermine any attempts to change the current wasteful vote-generation system. Recently a project to introduce environmental actions, provided by German government experts, failed completely. A second more recent project for the introduction of new IPARD measures was undermined by the high levels of politicization, lack of collaboration and withdrawal of support from the team leader. In the end he gave up in disgust and resigned. Currently, Ministry staff say that there is an ongoing policy project related to the more effective use of statistics where the team leader had to leave Macedonia recently because technical and financial support had been withdrawn from him.
The Ministry of Agriculture, like many government institutions, runs a politicized regime of fear with VMRO-DPMNE apparatchiks controlling policy decisions and over-ruling staff, heads of divisions and even those supposedly in charge of policy decision-making. Staff go along with such decisions that they often don't agree with, to keep their jobs. According to Ministry staff, the interference of VMRO-DPMNE operates at a high level in the Ministry. Some have alleged that the European Commission itself is compromised because the local European Delegation in Skopje has VMRO-DPMNE linked staff who filter information. A very obvious weakness in the government institutions in Macedonia is a lack of career structures for staff resulting in a high level of insecurity, subservience to arbitrary instructions, having multiple conflicting functions with inadequate financial and human resources and the common circumstance of people having to support themselves and their families with jobs additional to their ministry functions.