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Measures to successfully manage rural socio-economic change and agricultural restructuring in selected EU15 regions

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Carmen Hubbard, Professor Matthew GortonORCiD


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This deliverable assesses the most significant measures that promoted agricultural restructuring and rural socio-economic change in five selected EU 15 countries (Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Austria and the new German Bundesländer). For each country, the study focuses on a specific case study region (Border, Midlands and Western region [Ireland], the Autonomous Community of Navarra [Spain], the county of Skåne [Sweden], the Tyrol Region [Austria] and the Altmark Region [the new German Bundesländer]), trying to identify the main policy drivers that triggered transformation in these areas. Policy measures are grouped around the two major EU funding instruments, i.e. the Common Agricultural Policy, through its Pillar 1 and Pillar 2, and the Regional Policy Structural and Cohesion Funds. Undoubtedly, the CAP remains critical. The significance of direct payments is remarkable as in all case studies, farmers’ livelihoods, particularly those operating on a small-scale, depend largely on these subsidies. With the exception of Austria and to a lesser extent Sweden, however, the distribution of direct payments is very uneven, with large commercial farms being the main beneficiaries. This is particularly the case in Spain where 78% of farmers received only 17% of total direct aid in 2005. CAP Pillar 2 measures, particularly agri-environmental measures and LFAs compensatory payments, are extremely important for Austria and Sweden. The survival of most of Austria’s mountainous farms depends on agri-environmental and LFA compensatory payments. However, the agri-environmental and LFAs payments are subject to criticism. Although, they may contribute to the economic, social and ecological development of rural areas, there is a financial imbalance between agri-environmental and broader rural development measures, which limits the progression of integrated rural development. The analysis highlights the importance of the Community Initiative Programmes, particularly LEADER. Although, very limited funds were allocated for this Programme, in most cases LEADER became popular and well received by local communities. Its popularity led to countries such as Spain and Germany creating similar national programmes (e.g. PRODER in Spain and Active Regions in Germany). Although difficult to single out the effects of the Structural and Cohesion Funds on rural development, their impact should not be neglected. Since the first reform of the Structural Funds and the creation of the Single European Act, significant amounts of public money were allocated to regional policy. Amongst the five case studies, Ireland and, undoubtedly, Spain were the major beneficiaries of these funds.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hubbard C, Gorton M

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Published

Series Title: Working Paper

Year: 2009

Report Number: Deliverable 8.7

Place Published: Scarled Project