The agriculture ministers of the Visegrád Group (V4) countries discussed Europe’s strategy for a bio-based economy at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council’s meeting on 17 December in Brussels. Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan expressed his support for the BIOEAST initiative aimed at utilising Central and Eastern Europe’s biomass potential, launched two years ago upon Hungary’s proposal. “Maximising the added value of agricultural products through processing is key to the sector’s profitability; this is what the utilisation of research and innovation funds from Brussel can contribute to”, Agriculture Minister István Nagy explained.

Mr. Nagy noted that Hungary has a wealth of biomass thanks to its extensive agricultural, forestry and fishery activities; however, most of that capacity remains untapped. “Research and development funds from the EU are indispensable to utilising that potential, but most of those funds currently go to Western member states that joined the EU before Central and Eastern Europe. The share of this latter region from the R&D budget is only around 10%. This inequality should definitely be redressed”, the Minister emphasised.

The Hungarian  Minister reported on the international BIOEAST conference held in Budapest in November, aimed at tapping into the research and innovation potential of the region’s countries with relation to a bio-based economy. The conference participants agreed that the development of strategic research and development areas related to the bio-based economy offers major potential. These areas include agricultural knowledge and innovation systems, fresh-water aquacultures, forestry, sustainable production and biomass processing. Focusing on these fields could grant Central and Eastern Europe a higher share of the European Union’s agricultural R&D budget within the framework of the Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe research programmes.

According to István Nagy, developing Hungary’s bio-based economy is of prime importance if agricultural businesses are to benefit from the EU’s and the Hungarian government’s strategic development measures. Allowing for the local utilisation of the benefits of bio-based economic development processes is an important objective in order to promote sustainable economic growth. This is what the BIOEAST initiative can contribute to. Launched upon Hungary’s proposal in the V4 countries, BIOEAST is now supported by 11 Central and Eastern European countries and has garnered praise from the European Commission.

(Ministry of Agriculture Press Office)