Searching for Common Ground. European Union Enlargement and Agricultural Policy
Throughout history, policy, including agricultural policy of interest here, has been influenced by a society's values relating to concepts and perceptions of agriculture, nature, equity, and the associated beliefs about the rights or wrongs of the situation. The way in which "values and beliefs" influence the political debate and its outcome becomes possibly more apparent when societies with different histories and cultures, and therefore differing values and beliefs, are brought together for instance on the occasion of discussions aimed at the grouping of countries into regional blocs for economic or political reasons. Beyond the well documented economic and strategic interests of the potential partners, such divergences often underlie the varied country positions taken during the negotiations of the terms of the regional grouping, and unrecognized or unacknowledged differences in values and beliefs can lead to additional complexities in reaching an agreement and later implementing it. This has been the case for instance in western Europe as the original six countries negotiated the Treaty of Rome to form the then EEC, and in each successive round of accessions (or refusals) since. It was true as first the Canada-US free trade agreement was negotiated and later when NAFTA added Mexico. And it will be true as NAFTA expands throughout the Americas and as APEC becomes a reality.
To assess the importance of values and beliefs in the formulation and implementation of policy, notably policy related to agriculture, FAO decided to take a closer look at how that process unfolds, with a view to making the policy negotiating process - international in this case, but more generally domestic as well - more transparent and, it is therefore to be hoped, easier and more understandable for those involved. This study takes as example the contemplated eastern enlargement of the EU to include some of the former centrally planned economies of central and eastern Europe (CEE). It is a case of particular complexity as the CEE countries are themselves each involved in an internal questioning of their values and beliefs, as they face the new challenges of the market economy.
Those directly involved in the analysis of western and eastern Europe developments should find this study of great interest. But it should also appeal to a much wider audience, either in relation with countries around the world where the issue of entering in supranational economic or political grouping with effect on agricultural and rural policy is relevant, or more generally in relation with the domestic debates. Indeed, the study also points up the importance of local divergences within countries. Thus I commend this study to all those interested in additional insights into the complex set of factors that influence the political debate behind agricultural and rural development.