The rural dimension of Romania’s integration into the European Union
Connor, Georgeta Stoian
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Agriculture is central to Romania’s economy and social life. Not only does it produce food but Romania’s agro-food sector is both a major contributor to the economy and an important vehicle for rural development. In order to understand where rural Romania, particularly with regard to the so-called “agrarian question,” stands today, it is necessary to appreciate that it has undergone a number of significant changes in its turbulent history, especially after the Second World War. Comparing historical agricultural patterns, it is worth emphasizing the shift from the excessively large estates characteristic of the period prior to the First World War to the small and medium-sized properties during the interwar period, followed by a new fragmentation of the land through the 1945 Land Reform, and, finally, the creation of large collective properties during the communist era. Since the 1990s, on the other hand, post-communist land reform – initiated with the controversial Law 18/1991 – has aimed to decollectivize agriculture and restore rural property to its pre-collectivization owners. Importantly, this has had a number of disruptive effects on rural areas, including fostering conflicts between villagers over land, land abandonment, the inability of private farmers to access formerly state-owned equipment, and the proliferation of small subsistence farms, all of which have negatively impacted production and farmers’ access to markets. In this context, agricultural questions have proven to be some of the most difficult to resolve in EU admission negotiations, as EU officials have insisted that Romanian agriculture has had to be quickly “modernized” if Romania is to become a fully integrated member of the European Union. Through examination of archival records and interviews with key individuals, this dissertation investigates the evolution of Romanian agriculture and rural areas, focusing on the impact of Romania’s accession into the EU on agricultural practice and rural development. The research addresses the consequences of adjusting Romanian agriculture to Common Agricultural Policy requirements and of seeking to harmonize traditional and modern agriculture in order to preserve the rural traditions of Romania and its agricultural biodiversity.