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Southern and Eastern rural Europe under neoliberal restructuring: Challenges, resistances and emancipations

Working Group 10: Southern and Eastern rural Europe under neoliberal restructuring: Challenges, resistances and emancipations

Renato Do Carmo [1],  Katalin Kovács [2], María Jesús Rivera [3], and Nigel Swain [4]

1: University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal; 2:  Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, HAS, Hungary; 3:  University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Spain; 4: University of Liverpool, UK 

Authors [1] and [3]: On behalf of the RSG Southern and Mediterranean Europe: Social Change, Challenges and Opportunities

The current crisis and the response adopted by countries under a neoliberal paradigm are having a great impact on European countries. The impact is notably greater in southern and Mediterranean countries of Europe due to diverse factors. First, the development level of many of these countries when the crisis arrived was smaller than that of other European countries. Thus, the welfare system that could help people to face the crisis was considerably weaker. Second, the financial crisis was deeper in southern countries, leaving these countries in a worse position within the European and international power relations. Finally, many of these countries have become a space of experimentation for measures dictated by the Troika and uncritically adopted by governments along with the acceptance of bailout. Central and Eastern Europe shares many of the South’s problems and experiences a particular mismatch between huge CAP payments going to a very few beneficiaries for their enormous farms and the larger share of the rural population who do not benefit from agricultural support at all but have few other work opportunities.

An increasing number of rural territories are experiencing a deterioration of life conditions that may put sustainability at risk: impoverishment of population, loss of employment, reduction of welfare services, poor public transport, etc. In addition, in many rural areas a new centrally imposed model of rural governance may pave the way to future depatrimonialization of territory and to an increasing gap between rural communities and the design of public policies. Furthermore, although the neo-liberal discourse is not identical throughout southern and eastern Europe, most of these policies are designed considering neo-liberal solutions to the development issue only and deliberately leave out of analysis other alternatives.

Nevertheless, rural territories may also become an alternative, a space where people aim to try new ways of facing the current crisis: lower cost of living, vegetable gardens for family consumption, a more human atmosphere, new social relations and consumption patterns, new forms of communitarian organization, and so on.

Hence, this working group will look at the impact of crisis on rural areas of Southern and Eastern European Countries, as well as at the strategies developed by rural populations in order to overcome its negative effects and to boost new forms of resistance, resilience or emancipation. Some of topics that will be covered by the WG will be the following:

•    The emergence of new social inequalities
•    State and local government  initiatives as market substitutes: social economy and workfare 
•    Processes of empowerment and disempowerment of and between rural communities
•    Transformation of rural governance 
•    Rural welfare and livelihoods
•    Migrations and mobilities: labour migration, pro-rural migration and out-migration
•    The potentially emancipatory character of rural space. 
•    Conflicts over natural resources, community life and central governmental policy initiatives.

Dr. María Jesús Rivera 
Sociology and Social Work 
University of the Basque Country 
Escuela Universitaria de Trabajo Social (UPV/EHU)
Los Apraiz 2
Tel: + 34 945 01 42 57