Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The redefinition of Europe's Less Favoured Areas

Dax, Thomas (2005): The redefinition of Europe's Less Favoured Areas.

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Abstract

The support scheme for farming in less-favoured areas, established by the European Union in 1975, marked a major change in the nature of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by introducing for the first time regional categories. It also represented the initiation of direct annual payments to farmers, an approach which was to expand greatly in the 1990s and thereafter. Over a long period it had remained the only significant structural measure of agricultural policy with a territorial dimension. Only recent policy reforms changed this situation: commodity market support was gradually decreased and, on the other hand, the environmental implications of policy measures were increasingly emphasised. Discussions on the interrelations of the Less-Favoured Areas (LFA) scheme with Agri-Environmental Measures (AEM) and other elements of the Rural Development Programmes (RDP) have been intensified as the political and financial weight of the programmes gained in importance. This paper focuses on the objectives and relevance of the LFA support scheme, its application in the EU and the main elements of the debate for the redefinition of LFA support. From the very beginning, LFA policy was conceived as a structural policy aimed at the prevention of land abandonment, to preserve the farming population in these areas and maintain cultural landscapes. In this regard, the instrument was one of the first measures to address environmentally beneficial farming systems, and thus reveals high coincidence with High Nature Value (HNV) farming systems. The three types of LFA, mountain areas, other LFAs and areas affected by specific handicaps take account of the range of geographical differences in the production difficulties of EU agriculture. The increased focus on environmental aims resulted in a discussion of the ‘intermediate’ areas, the category of other LFAs. It has been proposed that the socio-economic criterion in determining these areas should be dropped, but the aim to maintain land management in marginal areas would be kept. Meanwhile, the decision on the redefinition of the LFAs has been postponed (to 2010). Nevertheless the issue will keep a central role in policy discussions of the future Rural Development Programmes.

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