Agenda Item 12

Perspective from the European Region

Table of Contents


1. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 25) formally identified food security as a basic human right. In 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit established poverty reduction and food security as key development policy goals.

2. In 1996, the Heads of State and Government and high-ranking representatives of FAO Member Nations, gathered at the World Food Summit (WFS), pledged their political determination to halve the number of undernourished people in the world by 2015. In 2002, the World Food Summit: five years later focused attention on the political will and the mobilization of resources and issued a declaration, the International Alliance Against Hunger (IAAH), which was premised on the fact that the target could only be achieved if all stakeholders made a concerted concrete effort.

3. As a follow-up to the World Food Summit, in 1996-97, FAO prepared draft strategies for national agricultural development for 19 member countries in the European region.1 In 2000 these draft strategy papers were reviewed and updated as part of a Technical Cooperation Project “Strategies for National Agricultural Development – Horizon 2010”.

4. Following the World Food Summit: five years later in June 2002, FAO launched an Initiative to Support the Review and Update National Agricultural, Rural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies.The purpose of this initiative is to support member governments in including rural development and food security issues in national economic development strategies.

5. The purpose of this document is to inform the Regional Conference on progress made in working with country governments on strategies for national agricultural and rural development. The document begins with a review of the main agricultural policy issues in the European Region. FAO's role in supporting countries in the region in formulating strategies for agriculture and rural development is then reviewed. The last section summarizes the approach taken under the Initiative to Support the Review and Update National Agricultural, Rural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies in the past two years.


6. The main agricultural and rural development policy issues in the European Region are rural development, institutional reform, food safety and quality and management of natural resources. In the majority of countries of the region, these issues are part of the transition from centrally planned to market oriented agricultural systems. However, these are not only transition related issues, but part of the change that all countries undergo in the process of economic development. As GDP per capita grows, the portion of the labour force employed in agriculture falls and labour freed from agriculture finds employment in other sectors. In the case of Eastern Europe and the CIS countries, the problem of unemployment and new employment creation is compounded by the fact that much of the industry left over from the socialist period is uncompetitive, resulting in a high rate of industrial unemployment as well as underemployment. Moreover, the role of the government in the economy needs to be redefined from control to regulation and creating enabling conditions for the development of employment creating small and medium businesses.


7. Development of the rural non-farm sector is greatly needed in most countries of the region in order to raise rural incomes and contribute to tax revenues to raise the level of public services in rural areas. The break-up of large farms and the distribution or restitution of land has resulted in a great number of small farmers living in poverty. In a number of countries of the region, including Albania, Estonia, Moldova, Romania and Uzbekistan, poverty in rural areas is more widespread than in urban areas. Moreover, for most countries in the region, non-income indicators of poverty, such as access to running water, gas, rural infrastructure, etc., are considerably worse in rural areas than in urban areas. Small farmers often operate on non-contiguous plots of land and lack capital and business skills. Rural development is essential for creating employment and potentially raising the income of such households in rural areas.


8. Redefining the role of government in agriculture and restructuring the ministries of agriculture and local agricultural institutions along these lines is an important part of agricultural reform, particularly in the CIS countries. Even basic institutions such as land rights and land markets are unable to operate without support from the state in protecting private land tenure rights, in ensuring a stable policy environment supportive of rural entrepreneurs, in improving accountability of local government and in ensuring access to markets, agricultural credit, market information, proper infrastructure and extension services. Institutional reform has progressed slowly, because it requires budgetary resources, as well as capacity within ministries and political will.


9. An important part of the EU accession process has been the adoption of EU food safety and quality standards in the accession countries. Also for the Balkan and CIS countries, the issue of food safety is quite important both for export and for raising the quality of food domestically. In most CIS countries food safety standards and administration are still (at least partially) based on the old State Standards Committee from the former centrally planned system. Revising these standards and setting up institutions for administration, monitoring and enforcement will also require considerable budgetary resources, capacity and political will.


10. In most of the countries of Eastern Europe the reorientation toward market economies has involved considerable privatization of farmland, rangeland, forests and water resources. For the countries of the CIS, the privatization process has not been quite so extensive. Though farmland has been largely privatized, rangeland, forests and water resources often remain under state administration.

11. Sustainable irrigation water management is part of the overall management of natural resources. A number of countries of the region depend on irrigated agriculture. In Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Romania over 20 percent of agricultural land is irrigated. In each of these countries the irrigation infrastructure was constructed in socialist times when cost efficiency in irrigated agriculture did not always receive priority consideration. Constructing a new system that utilizes water more efficiently and is financially viable (and makes sure maintenance of the infrastructure can be financed) is important in a number of countries.


12. FAO has assisted governments in formulating a number of strategies for agriculture and rural development in the region using donor and FAO funds since 1992. For instance:

13. Furthermore, FAO implemented a number of policy assistance projects using TCP funding in most of the CEE and CIS countries:

14. Besides strategic outlooks, special emphasis was given to the question of:

15. All projects included capacity-building components to various degrees and were implemented with participatory approaches, by working through technical working groups and/or regional and national workshops. Furthermore, to assist CEE countries in the reform of their statistical systems in support of rural and agricultural policies, FAO organized in September 2003 a sub-regional workshop on "Moving towards an Agricultural Statistics System for the Market Economy", in Kishinev, Republic of Moldova, with the participation of seven countries.

16. The two comprehensive policy initiatives in the European Region are EU accession and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) process. Most agricultural development issues of the accession EU member states are set by the agreement on agriculture reached with the European Union in December 2002. Moreover, agricultural development issues in future candidate countries within the Balkan subregion also need to be oriented to EU-type policies.

17. For the CIS countries agricultural and rural development policies are considerably more complex. The dispersion of responsibility for agricultural and rural development policy often makes the task of formulating a coherent strategy quite difficult. Moreover, frequent changes in and contradictions between the priorities of various government organizations often complicate the task of formulating a coherent and widely-supported strategy.

18. The PRSP process in the low-income countries of the region has offered a way for coordination of responsibility and thus coherence of policies for rural development. However, implementation of the PRSPs depends to a great degree on political will, capacity and budgetary resources.

19. The 2000 update of rural strategies under the Technical Cooperation Project “Strategies for National Agricultural Development – Horizon 2010” confirmed this situation in the region. Under this project one-day national workshops were held in Albania, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Slovakia and Turkey. In accordance with the requests of the countries, the outcomes of these exercises were technical papers, a summary document on the relevant issues and consultations between ministries and FAO technical officers.

20. FAO has pursued a bottom up approach to policy change by demonstrating to farmers how to be competitive in the difficult market environment and developing the capacities of communities to identify non-farm income opportunities. The aim of such projects is poverty alleviation and rural development for the direct beneficiaries, but there is also a demonstration effect for both non-beneficiary communities and for governments in the region. They also are used to demonstrate to governments the type of policies that need to be encouraged and developed in order to raise farm and non-farm incomes in rural areas.


21. Since the launch in 2002 of the Initiative to Support the Review and Update National Agricultural, Rural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies, progress has been made and lessons learned in supporting strategies for agricultural and rural development. The main lessons are that FAO can be of most assistance to governments through supporting countries in specific technical issues to improve policies where possible and build capacity in implementation of EU-related policies and PRSPs. This approach is illustrated in the FAO project in the Slovak Republic on strengthening national capacities for monitoring and evaluation of the SAPARD programme, which did not only facilitate access to SAPARD funds, but also created opportunities for future access to structural funds.

22. A second example of this approach is the technical assistance offered to BSEC member countries in the regional project on Institutional Strengthening to Facilitate Intra- and Inter-regional Agricultural Trade of the Member States of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, aimed at facilitating trade in agricultural commodities between BSEC member countries. FAO assisted in bringing these recommendations to the attention of government policymakers. As a result of this project, the BSEC Committee on Agriculture recommended that the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs implement an action plan aimed at trade facilitation among the BSEC member states and begin discussions on the formation of a trade facilitation body.

23. A third example of this approach is FAO's role in reviewing and assisting countries in setting up monitoring and implementation measures for state programmes resulting from the PRSP initiative. In Armenia, Azerbaijan and Serbia and Montenegro, FAO has reviewed and participated in working groups on PRSPs. In Bosnia and Herzegovina FAO has recently launched a project to assist the PRSP secretariat in formulating and implementing the PRSP in agriculture and the rural sector. FAO will continue to provide technical assistance in capacity building in the countries of the European region upon request.

24. The participants of the Regional Conference are invited to put forward their views on how the formulation and implementation of strategies for agricultural and rural development could be strengthened in the region.

1 Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia FYR, Malta, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Turkey.