Conférence "20 years of Farming and Rural Transition in Eastern Europe : what have we learned ?"

20 et 21 octobre 2011

- Place :
Agrosup Dijon
26 Bd du Dr Petitjean – BP 87999
21079 DIJON Cedex

Over twenty years have passed since the fall of the Wall and the beginning of the process called
"Transition" in Central and Eastern Europe Countries (CEEC). Two major events marked this historical
episode from the beginning : the transition toward democratic systems, and the adoption of a free
market system in the perspective of a liberal politico-economic model. As an immediate
consequence of these rapid developments and of the breakdown of all major economic and political
balance of the East, the initial dramatic recession of the 90s hit all sectors in Eastern countries. This
situation was particularly reflected by the highest unemployment rates ever achieved, especially in
rural areas away from major urban or trans-border employment areas.

Then, in a context of gradual recovery, a significant proportion of countries in Central and Eastern
Europe entered the double pre-accession and accession steps to European Union during the
beginning of the 2000s. The aim was to reach and appropriate the acquis communautaire in the
fields of agriculture : management of institutional structures, control systems (sanitary for all food
chains, but also administrative and financial), markets organizations, rural and industrial

These evolutionary phases were accompanied by a severe diagnosis when focusing on the
agricultural and rural sector in the East. Depending on the country, and taking as a reference the
presented-as-positive trajectory of modernization of agriculture in West-European from the late 40’s
to 70’s. The need for urgent reform was emphasized whilst considering the specificities of the
Eastern farming sector : in some regions, late modernization and low labor productivity of small
family structures, in a context where agriculture appears as a survival strategy face to general crisis ;
in some other regions, low technical performance and management problems in macro-cooperatives
or State farms .Everywhere was observed the need and difficulty of implementing land reforms to
restore private agricultural property, presented as necessary to establish trade at parity with
Western European countries.

In this context, different processes were first predicted. Structurally, with significant variations
across countries, macro-state farms or cooperatives, often integrated into food complexes, were
initially expected to give way to private family-like farming systems oriented toward technical
development, productive specialization, capital intensity and market-orientation of the production.
This horizon of convergence also concerned small subsistence or semi-subsistence family farms,
which were expected to give way to larger family farms perceived a priori as more efficient.
Economically, the early stages of market opening drove western countries to fear the new
competition with Eastern agricultural products, potentially cheaper because of lower production

The return on these twenty years of evolution invites us to ask different questions :

- What progress of developments in the Eastern countries over the past two decades ? Did the
evolutionary models initially proposed prove adequate, beyond the teleological character of
the notion of "transition" used to describe the on-going processes ? How does the close
observation of empirical facts - economic, political, social, etc - invite us to renew the
understanding of trends and of the contemporary situation ?

- How to characterize these twenty years of agricultural and rural transformation in the
CEECs : what do we learn today when looking back at this period of history, regarding forms
of land property and farms structures, the characteristics of markets and the renewal of the
elites and institutions ? Ultimately, how to describe the specific trajectory of each of these
countries ?

- Are the phenomena of concentration of land property and of speculation really at work ? Are
there also strategies of resistance to these phenomena, both private and public ? What are
the results of such opposite dynamics ?

- What are the contemporary social conditions of work in agriculture and in rural areas ?
Again, did the concentration phenomena announced really occurred ? In a context where
migration opportunities have profoundly altered the forms of rural family-like multi-
activities, what are today the dynamics at work, not only in terms of strategies for the choice
of professional activities, but also of economic transfers ? What are the structural effects in
the Eastern regions dominated by micro-structures ?

- Finally, what are the new lessons of this current structural modernization process, after the
implementation of supports from the two pillars of the CAP ? What are the technical,
structural and economical models now at work, at the scale of both the agricultural
production sector and of the upstream and downstream sectors ? How do different types
and sizes of farms use this funding ? How are power relationships consequently modified,
when considering market equilibrium, struggles for access to land, or the development of
diversified rural activities ?

- For more informations et see the program :

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