Agricultural Policy Forum 2019: Contribution of Diversification of Economic Activities to Sustainable Rural Development in SEE

Agricultural Policy Forum (APF) is a two-day event on regional agricultural policy in SEE organized by SWG, involving relevant regional and international stakeholders, resulting in regional policy recommendations. It has been organized on an annual basis since 2001 to serve as a wide platform for discussions and recommendations on regional policy issues in agriculture and rural development in SEE.

APF 2019 entitled “Contribution ot Diversification of Economic Activities to Sustainable Rural Development in SEE” was held in Ohrid, North Macedonia on 9 – 10 October 2019. It was organized by the Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG) in SEE in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy of North Macedonia. It gathered more than 130 representatives of relevant public authorities, civil and private sector and international organizations from 16 countries of the SEE region and beyond.

Among other, the Forum concluded that in order to support the diversification of economic activities in rural areas there was a need for adequate rural development policies aligned with the EU CAP, addressing the challenges of the SEE countries/territories. Consequently, inter-sectorial cooperation and coordination among various stakeholders on horizontal and vertical level is essential.

Financial assistance for sustainable agriculture and rural development is now available and operational in all IPARD countries. A more progressive approach towards the IPARD programme is helping the IPARD countries to improve their administrative capacities.

While rural tourism constitutes a growing source of revenue for the Western Balkan countries/territories, much of that growth has been restricted by poor infrastructure, education and promotion activities, often with adverse environmental effects. Geographical Indication and Traditional Specialties are a useful tool for rural development that includes economic, social and environmental dimensions. To enhance traditional production, national authorities need to establish efficient control systems and control bodies while providing flexibility and derogations on the food safety requirements.

A harmonized regulatory framework for wine is seen as a fundamental precondition for increased trade and export. Harmonization with the structure and measures that characterize the accession process, brings with it new changes with the CAP Strategic Plan, which is compulsory for wine.

Research should achieve a higher position amongst governmental priorities. National budgets dedicated to research need to be significantly increased to improve research funding.

The Ohrid Agenda, summarizing all derived policy recommendations, will be presented in the Thirteenth Annual Working Meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture from South Eastern Europe (SEE), on 12 November 2019 in Pristina.

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