Electronic V4-EU Information Network to facilitate European agricultural integration process especially in the fields of market regulations, rural development programmes and food safety. 

 

Raising awareness of enterprises and professional organisations in the V4 countries to the policy of market regulations and rural development financial measures of the EU as well as to the common food safety challenges in relation with EU integration by the means of a series of meetings and publications. Proposed tools are traditional publications and state-of-the-art information technology, electronic publications and development of distance education materials. All information will be published and provided in national languages and made available on non-profit philosophy to all.

 

Development of a Visegrad Four EU related Agribusiness Information System facilitating day-to-day management of agriculture in context with integration to the European Union.

 

Background:

 

The agricultural sector is one of the most important production spheres of the Visegrad Countries’ national economies. Agriculture, food industry and forestry accounted more than 10 per cent of GDP and the traditionally positive balance of foreign trade of these sectors contribute in great extent to the improvement of the balance of trade of these countries.

 

The governments wish to further strengthen the role of agriculture both in international trade and in the domestic market. Improved information and management systems and more support to agricultural research, extension and professional education sectors would hopefully reduce the risks in agri-food market conditions.

 

The governments have recognized that conventional agricultural activities alone are insufficient to ensure the development of countryside. Therefore, in future, more emphasis should be laid on rural development being one of the most important elements of regional development programmes in V4 countries. The governments will also increase subsidies for development of villages and their ability to maintain local population through improvement of living and working conditions and new opportunities for employment and diversification of rural activities. Here again, the strengthening of rural information systems and extension services are of primary importance.

 

One of the most important tasks of the forthcoming years in agri-food and other rural sectors is to prepare them for European Union accession. The governments wish to prevent agriculture from loosing its positions after joining the EU. Development of plant and animal health as well as food quality systems along with improved rural environment management practices and stabilisation of agri-food market conditions are essential to ensure successful preparation for EU integration process. Without major changes in agricultural and rural information systems suitable for collection of updated information on ongoing activities and dissemination of most adequate information to farmers and local communities, on regular basis, these huge tasks and programmes cannot be fulfilled.

 

After a decade of economic reforms and a heavy process of transition period in the Visegrad region, many progress have been achieved in the agricultural sector, too. The successful management of agriculture is projected to be one of the most difficult and troublesome fields of activities in the coming years though. The reason for these expectations is primarily underlined by the major socio-economic trends to be faced by many countries in the region: the accession to the European Union in context of globalisation. The transformation of agriculture is a key factor in the integration process. The attitude of people living in rural areas towards the acceptance of new economic trends is not less important. In our region the majority of citizens live in the countryside and their willingness to get engaged in a partnership with decision makers largely depends on their being informed of advantages and opportunities made available for them by the new economic environment.

 

Delivering relevant, readily usable and easily understandable information is the basic pre-condition for this process. Exploring the information services of this region, on the contrary we can find no such initiative to tackle this problem. The average citizens and labour force working in the agricultural and primer industries require information in the native language in many cases, and besides their openness to new information technologies they tend to prefer traditional access to information resources, too. The agricultural professionals working in knowledge transfer and consultancy also lack the type of information they could rely on in their routine.

 

Most of V4 countries have started to build up their agricultural information and extension services appropriate for market economy, immediately after political and economic changes, in early nineties. Unfortunately, due to financial restrictions and considerable recession in agriculture at the beginning of this decade, no major results have been realized in this respect. Because of the above-mentioned reasons, during the coming years, the governments wish to pay special attention and to provide assistance to the radical reorganization and fast development of agricultural information systems.

 

The Pannon Research Coordination Centre in close co-operation with its founders have made a considerable progress in installing the most up-to-date information infrastructure in Budapest and Keszthely for receiving and storing practically unlimited amount of data and technical facilities for dissemination of various kinds of agricultural and rural development information resources to the users through Internet services. The Pannon Research Coordination Centre  is ready to set up and operate a “V4 EU Agricultural Information Network” in co-operation with the national agricultural libraries and other agricultural universities, colleges and research institutions in the Visegrad countries, which could provide a good framework for future development of decentralized information programmes.

 

The further development of free market conditions in the Visegrad Four Countries and the increased number of producers in agricultural sectors require a more sophisticated information system then ever before. The existing agricultural and rural development facilities are not appropriate any more for operation and development of agricultural knowledge system in the Visegrad Four Countries.  Therefore the financial assistance of Internation Visegrad Fund is requested to overcome these serious deficiencies in order to provide more marketing and technological information for producers and in vice-versa more information for leaders of agricultural production and rural development policies.

 

Overall objectives:

 

The general aim of the project is to strengthen the setting up and operation of EU accession related Agricultural Information System in the Visegrad Four Countries with specific regard to establishment of International Network in the Visegrad Four Countries. This Network will provide opportunities for decentralized and regular data input and free accession to most of the content presented on the European Union Server (and related sites) as well as some of our original information systems and databases for interested institutions and individual agri-food entrepreneurs and farmers. The Network should also be based on the existing agricultural higher education and research institutions with specific concern to the requirements of the ministries of agriculture, national agricultural libraries and information centres.

 

Direct objectives:

 

The planned activities of this project application proposal combines a series of events and parallel actions that will eventually lead to the solution to a large proportion of problems that are indicated in the title and short description of this program.

 

We can experience in our countries that the average awareness of both natural and legal entities to many aspects and consequences of EU accession preparation period and membership status is very limited. This situation is especially true in the rural areas and primer industries. Many of the shortages in desired knowledge is due to stand-alone possession of native language and missing “EU language” skills. Besides enhancing the efficiency of teaching foreign languages (that requires several years for a novice) in many cases we have no time to wait but we must act immediately in the field of spreading EU related information crucial to producers, dealers, service providers and private people right away.

 

Analysing and studying a whole range of matters in relation with our integration process we found that the issue of market supports, the rural development financial instruments and mechanisms, and the risks and possible consequences of harmonisation to EU food quality control scheme is of prior importance and urging necessity to deal with.

 

We have elaborated a strategy how we can focus the attention of the professionals on these problems and how we can highlight the major lessons for the wider public.

 

In the course of the proposed programme we intend to develop certain non-periodic (traditional) and periodic (electronic) publications. An international conference is projected to be organised in the topic (see Point 4.). Traditional publications and CD-ROM is to be prepared for the date of the conference. One press meeting should be organised parallel with the Conference. Another presentation for media representatives is scheduled to be held in the other geographical focal point of the project. During this event the final publications and a project report can be disseminated.

 

Subsequent time stages:

 

· Project Preparation – Nitra, October 2001.

· Organisation of Conference and preparation of publications: 2 brochures in each V4 languages, 1 Multimedia CD-ROM. Preparation of electronic periodic publication on the Internet: EU/V4 Portal. All participating partners, November-December 2001.

· Conference with press meeting - Budapest, January 2002.

· Closing workshop with presentation for professionals and media representatives - Prague, January 2002.

 

Main tools and methods:

 

Translation of resource materials regarding indicated topic to national V4 languages. Publication and dissemination of respective documents to enterprises and professional organisations.

 

The publications will primarily contain information about financial instruments (donations, premiums, grants, etc.)  that are applied to regulate production and commercial activities of especially rural areas and agricultural activities on a yearly basis.

 

The Co-ordinator undertakes to provide from its own special database all regulations in English and native languages that are generated by the Management Committees and published daily in the Official Journal.

 

Special attention must and will be devoted in our countries to the legal and professional harmonisation of our food quality control scheme to the system currently practised in the EU if this project proposal is to be realised.

 

We also promote the initiative of setting up the online version of this activity thus we can easily develop the V4 Regional EU Portal.

 

The project proposal also aims at providing public information related to the regulations generated regularly in the European Union Management Committees. Each piece of textual data is translated to the native language, the database can be accessed through a very simple but powerful search interface on the Internet. Both original and translated documents can be extracted from the database in their original format (and file extension) that also enables better comparison with and visualisation of resource materials of the European Union.  Some of the information is proposed to be published on T-DBC (television data broadcast) system in the native languages. This platform is more suitable for users with diverse educational background.

 

The project implementation will address two main objectives: 

 

(1) Developing of information services tailored for a wide range and large number of users at all the different vertical levels of the agricultural sector

(2) Organising seminars related to the understanding of content provided by information services above as well as the use of particular information interfaces. Raising the general skill of the targeted segment in using modern IT tools, computer techniques.

 

(a) The main objective of our project proposal is to develop, maintain and publish very practical on-line agricultural management information databases (including searchable full text of regulations in Hungarian language). The content of the databases is closely related to an issue of highest priority in the V4 countries: the accession to the European Union.

 

(b) Training programmes and conferences:

· Workshops, conferences at the national level. This activity requires a national network of information infrastructure interconnected with each other in the regions of Visegrad Four Countries. Represented by 3 subcenters, training programmes are planned to be organised with the use of videoconference.

· Workshops, one conference at the regional/international level

 

Consequence of the project:

 

- Series of Information Brochures in each participating countries regarding project topic.

- Publication of one CD-ROM in each participating countries' languages using Multimedia technology.

- Establishment of an EU-V4 Internet Portal for users in rural areas and primer industries.

- Improvement of information, communication and co-operation between V4 agricultural research and academic institutions together with governments and international organisations

- Availability  of online EU agribusiness information databases,  improvement of quality and access to content on V4 / Central European EU content related  internet websites and to agriculture related topics, especially related to financing mechanisms and food quality issues.

- Etc.

 

Expected contribution:

From Hungary:

- Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Hungary

- EU-INFO Ltd.

- PHARE EU Education Programme

- Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Hungary

- Agricultural Intervention Centre of the MoA&RuD, Hungary

- FAO SEUR (AgroWeb / National Committees on the Internet project)

- Federation of Hungarian Food Producers

- Budapest Chamber of Agriculture

 

 

Follow-up:

 

Updating electronic publication services through the Internet website developed in relation with the implementation of this project. Continuation of distance educational and traditional educational activities also based on publications being carried out in the course of this project with the background of the National Distance Education Councils and European Studies Centres of respective countries.   

 

 

THE PANNON RESEARCH CO-ORDINATION CENTRE

 

The PANNON Research Co-ordination Centre was established within the organisational frame of Pannon University of Agricultural Sciences in the second half of 1998. Based on the University Council's decision of 10 December 1998 it started its activity according to the purposes below:

 

1. Organisation of R&D programmes of sectors of agriculture and projects based on the intellectual basis of the university faculties the co-operating research centres and research places and the encouragement of the practical utilisation of the results.

 

2. Harmonisation of the activity of the university institutions and regional development capacities – mainly in the area of Transdanubia – organisation of rural and regional development programs with local use of research results, further training, informatic and technical advice.

 

3. Development of the international research co-operation between the University and several foreign partner institutions and between research-development partners.

 

During our organisation activity – with the scientific co-ordinators of the University and Faculties – we work out the sectorial research project-packets, for the control of which we request the university professors and researchers and internationally well-known experts.

 

In the previous period, we concluded an agreement with all major scientific and research institutes of the University. We have started the organisation of a range of research programs of great importance, most of them were included in our application system, and the preparation of the applications is in progress.

 

The thematic list of our most important aims is the following:

 

1. Soil-fertility, organic technologies, environmental management, environmental protection, utilisation of the renewed resources.

 

2. Development of the biological basis in the field of plant production, in the grazing and in the horticultural sector.

 

3. Development of the animal husbandry with biotechnological methods.

 

4. Development of the food production technologies, the strategy of protecting quality origin and market competitiveness.

 

5. Research of the economical and effective methods of fodder industries.

 

6. Scientific foundation of the restructuring programs of agribusiness.

 

7. Organisation of the scientific and professional background of rural and regional development (training, further training, technical advice, exhibition and model farms), informatics.

 

8. Development of the logistical system of the regional development and agribusiness.

 

9. Sectoral and regional research-organisation (development of application co-ordination system).

 

10. Creation of the local, countrywide and international information networks.