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Sustainable agriculture in Central and Eastern European countries

This research project focuses on sustainable agricultural development (SAD) in Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs). Sustainable development is an issue that the fifth Framework Programme has ranked high, with sustainable agriculture as an important action. The region under research is related to a short-term priority of the European Union, i.e. 'enlargement' of the CEECs. Hence, the conditions under which CEE transition countries meet both the requirements for EU accession and the demands for SAD provide the principal focus of research. The research partners are renowned experts in both fields, transition processes and on environmental protection. They come from four universities and from the FAO. Working together with researchers from 12 CEE countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine), they want to combine their expertise gained in several disciplines to analyse the topic by a complex and comparative approach. Guided by the principle that research should benefit all partners and give an explicit impetus to societal development, researchers and decision-makers from the EU and CEE countries and the FAO are involved. This will facilitate a widespread dissemination of the results and recommendations for SAD.

The concepts and recommendations for a successful transition of the agricultural sectors of CEECs towards sustainability will be developed, presented to decision-makers, discussed with them, and published at international level. The main research objectives are:
1) to derive the basic objectives of sustainable agricultural development (SAD) from the identification of relevant problems in CEECs. What are the main conflicts between transformation and sustainability? Although an integrated view of sustainability will always be preferred where possible, the research may have to concentrate on ecological problems. An initial inventory of environmental problems related to agricultural production will lead to the selection of case studies based on a given set of criteria.
(2) to investigate institutions of sustainability, focussing on property rights and governance structures. What institutional arrangements are pre-requisites to meet SAD? Property rights on land and other nature components, information systems and other institutional forms will be considered as determinants of both transformation of agriculture and transformation towards sustainability.
(3) to promote sound agri-environmental policies at national and EU levels, emphasising implementation. Should policies be changed, their implementation, or both? The environmental impact of current policies as well as of anticipated EU policies (pre-accession policies and international agreements) may be investigated, with a view to elaborating alternative national policy instruments to promote SAD.
(4) to design sustainable farming systems (FS), including appropriate capacities for policy support. What does on-farm sustainability consist of? The variety of FS existing in the CEECs will be explored, paying attention to economic, ecological and social aspects. Comparison of impacts between various FS should help to design farm-level-based systems, which reduce negative externalities of agricultural production and enhance the positive ones.

Progress to Date
The final conference of the CEESA project on 'Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development in Transition: Strategies for sustainable resource management and challenges of EU enlargement' took place in Poland, November 2002. The conference marked the end of the project's research activities, and its series of workshops and conferences. The members of the CEESA project are preparing the final publications and all project reports and publications will be available from

Apart from the assessment of problems for sustainable agriculture in 12 Central and Eastern European Countries, the project analysed the challenges and chances of sustainability in CEE agriculture from the perspectives of agri-environmental policies, institutions and farming systems. These perspectives simultaneously constitute the three working groups of the CEESA project. Policy recommendations have been formulated in respect to:
1) institutional options for sustainable agri-environmental resource use
2) possibilities and threats facing the sustainable transformation of farming systems
3) agri-environmental policy developments.
In addition, cross-cutting topics were addressed by a comparative analysis of agri-environmental issues and the challenge of the Nitrate and Habitat Directive, by a description of patterns of social capital in transition countries, and an analysis of common property resources during transition. All up-to-date results will be available on the project website.

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Scientist responsible for the project

10099 Berlin
Germany - DE

Phone: +49 30 2093 6320
Fax: +49 30 2093 6497


Project ID QLRT-1999-01611
Organisation Humboldt University Berlin Department of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences
Area 5.4
Start date 01 February 2000
Duration (months) 41
Total cost 1 620 969 €
Total EC contribution   1 539 895 €
Status Completed

The partners

  • University of Newcastle upon Tyne Centre of Rural Economy, United Kingdom (The) - GB
  • Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Sub-Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe, Hungary - HU

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