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Regrouping agricultural land and forests in Central and Eastern Europe

Doc. 10105
10 March 2004

Motion for a recommendation
presented by Mr Schmied and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it


            In several Central and Eastern European countries a large part of the population subsists on agriculture based on very traditional and inefficient farming structures. These people represent between 20 and 35 percent of their country’s total population. Their situation is likely to cause grave social problems in the near future.

            In the present structure, an average small farmer performs agricultural work in 6 to 8 distinct locations. These lots may be several kilometres apart. The prospects for improving their standard of living are doomed by the difficult working conditions, by the typically poor infrastructure of small village communities and by the high cost of transportation. The low income of farmers is forcing the younger generations to leave their villages and move to cities where economic opportunities are more promising. At present, the average age of actively working persons on many family farming units in these countries is typically 60 years. The current depletion of villages might also significantly contribute to the flux of cross-border migration of the work force in the near future.

            Preserving and improving the traditional family-based farming culture is therefore essential for social stability. It also helps indirectly in safeguarding the landscape and preserving the natural environment in its traditional form.

            For the purpose of easing migratory pressures by way of improving the efficiency and the economic chances of family farms, a key precondition must be fulfilled. That is the rationalisation of farming by the regrouping of agricultural land and forests, thereby reducing the high fragmentation of land ownership. This would create the basis for more efficient farming and for prosperity among the younger generations in a high number of small rural communities. The implementation of land regrouping programmes would also provide the basic requirements for performing various community programmes related to rural and infrastructural development before and after the accession of these countries to the European Union.

            In Switzerland as well as in other West European countries, the success of regrouping agricultural land and forests manifested itself in over 50% savings in the cost of farm operation. The ensuing improvement in farmers´ living conditions convinced many young farmers in Switzerland to remain on the land and continue with farming. At the same time, the land regrouping process created favourable conditions for successful environmental and landscape protection programmes.

            A successfully implemented pilot project in a Central and Eastern European country could, in due time, create a snowball effect in most countries of the region.

            The Council of Europe should take the lead in exploring the usefulness of the well-proven Swiss model of regrouping agricultural land and forest for small farms in Central and Eastern Europe. The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers and particularly the governments of the Member States concerned give all necessary support for the elaboration and launching of a pilot project in a Central and East European country.

Signed [1]:
Schmied, Switzerland, LDR
Agudo, Spain, SOC
Anttila, Finland, LDR
Çavusoglu Y., Turkey, LDR
Crema, Italy, SOC
Dupraz, Switzerland, LDR
Etherington, United Kingdom, SOC
Giovanelli, Italy, SOC
Goulet, France, LDR
Gubert, Italy, EPP/CD
Kelemen, Romania, EPP/CD
Kužvart, Czech Republic, SOC
Lobkowicz, Czech Republic, EPP/CD
Meale, United Kingdom, SOC
Nazaré Pereira, Portugal, EPP/CD
Ohlsson, Sweden, SOC
Schicker, Austria, SOC
Stoyanova, Bulgaria, EPP/CD
Timmermans J., Belgium, SOC
Velikov, Bulgaria, LDR


[1]

SOC
EPP
EDG
LDR
UEL
NR

Socialist Group
Group of the European People’s Party
European Democratic Group
Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
Group of the Unified European Left
Not registered in a group