For more than a decade the political and economic systems in Central and Eastern European Countries have passed through a process of fundamental transformation. In particular, the gricultural sectors of the transition countries have undergone dramatic changes. At the same time, farm privatisation, land reform, and restructuring have had great, but heterogeneous impacts on natural environments and ecosystems. Although decreasing agricultural production and lower farm inputs have reduced environmental pressures during the initial phases of transition, serious environmental and resource management problems still exist, and new issues have arisen in this area of decision making. Management of irrigation and drainage systems, water pollution and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and conflicts between nature conservation and agricultural land use are examples. The transition countries certainly show high levels of biodiversity and possess numerous valuable habitats, but land abandonment, declining ecological value of landscapes, ageing rural populations and lacking social security can also be observed. In addition, agri-environmental policies, local insttutions for sustainable resource management and social cohesion in rural societies are often still less effective. This situation has given rise to strong expectations regarding the future role of the European Union in managing environmental resources and supporting rural development. This book assembles presentations by scientists and politicians from Central and Eastern as well as Western European Countries held on the occasion of an ACE Phare Seminar in September 2001, in Nitra, Slovakia. It aims at students and researchers engaged in agricultural or environmental sciences, in transition studies and European integration, and at government officials and actors from non-government organisation as well. It addresses all those who have an interest in the cross-cutting issues of sustainable agri-environmental development, transformation of agriculture and the Eastern enlargement of the European Union.
Franz W. Gatzweiler, Konrad Hagedorn, Renate Judis