Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (REU)

Challenges and Priorities in the Region

How FAO assists members in Europe and Central Asia

The European and Central Asian Region is highly differentiated by income levels, policy agenda and assistance requirements. Many Central European countries have joined the European Union (EU) and, thus, the emphasis of FAO's work shifted  further east.
FAO's activities are also influenced by the fact that he global economic and financial crisis, climate change and volatile food prices had serious impacts on economic development in many countries in the European and Central Asian region.
The main policy issues for the countries of South-eastern Europe are related to EU accession. FAO's assistance in this region is biased toward enhancement of food value chains, introduction of the acquis communautaire, sustainable management of natural resources and ensuring food security.
The countries of the Commomwealth of Independent States (CIS) further to the East are in the process of developing agriculture and rural development policies supportive of market agriculture and institutions for sector governance that support the development of family farms and the private sector. These countries receive assistance in a whole range of policy, capacity and institutional-building issues from natural resource management to food safety, value chain developments and others.
The countries of Central Asia receive specific attention to issues of rural poverty and food security.
Strengthening institutional capacity in the region is of particular relevance and FAO has an important role in developing and assistance to implement effective evidence-based policies in the region that not only ensure access to food, address malnutrition but especially aim at enabling family farms to access technologies, inputs, capital goods, credit and markets.
FAO also focuses attention to strengthening the negotiating power of farmers in the value chain and improve capacity of farmers' organizations.

Challanges for Rural Sector Development in Europe and Central Asia

The Europe and Central Asia Region: heterogeneous membership

The FAO Europe and Central Asia Region comprises 53 member countries and one Member Organization (the European Union). In addition to the 27 Member States of the EU, the region comprises eight countries classified as Low-Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) and three countries classified as Low Income Countris by the World Bank.
The transition economies in the region are an extremely diverse group and poverty is a major problem. They are home to an estimated 25 million undernourished people, with 21 million living in CIS countries. Factors behind progress and setbacks in hunger reduction vary across the region. Economic transition and political instability in the early 1990s disrupted the economic and political systems, dismantled social policies and social safety nets and brought losses of employment. In addition, conflict and war in some countries had debilitating economic and social effects with ensuing problems of refugees and displaced persons. Poverty, especially in rural areas, is a major setback facing the region. Natural disasters - in particular prolonged droughts - have also played a role in increasing food insecurity. Reversing the backward trend of increasing poverty will require focused efforts on development in rural areas.

Regional Priorities

The long-term priorities were first endorsed by the FAO Regional Conference for Europe, held in Porto (Portugal) in July 2000. Account was taken of the agricultural policies of Western European countries and of the special requirements of Central and Eastern European and CIS countries as they move towards market economies and attempt to revitalize their rural sectors. All consecutive regional conferences reconfirmed these regional priorities and highlighted those issues, where they wished that FAO concentrates its efforts.
The Immediate Plan of Action for FAO's Renewal (IPA) approved by the 35th (Special) Session of the FAO Conference in November 2008 laid the foundation of an enhanced results-based approach to programme planning, implementation and reporting in the Organization. It provided the basis for preparing during 2009 the Strategic Framework 2010-19, Medium Term Plan 2010-13 and Programme of Work and Budget 2010-11, which were endorsed by the 36th Session of the FAO Conference in November 2009.

At its 27th Session in May 2010 in Yerevan, Armenia, the FAO Regional Conference for Europe decided that priority should be given to regional activities involving advocacy, policy support, capacity building, knowledge management and neutral fora for discussion in the following areas of action:

 provision of basic global data and statistics;

 assistance to define national economic, social, food and nutrition policies, with a focus on capacity building for least developed countries to meet global expectations and benefit from market opportunities;

 normative role at global level, as well as capacity building to reinforce technical and institutional capacities, especially for least developed countries;

 implementation of food safety, sanitary and phytosanitary standards including global conventions;

 animal and plant transboundary diseases;

 emergencies and rehabilitation;

 interface between climate change and agriculture and rural development;


 conservation and management of plant and animal genetic resources;

 sustainable management of forests.