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by The Group of Bertinoro
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the democratisation process in Central and Eastern European Countries and the former Soviet Union, the agro-food sector as well as the rest of economic and social system of this large area of the world has undergone a radical transformation – a major issue in the Third Millennium perspective.
The future of agriculture and food in the economies of transition from plan to market will have an impact on the whole international community, but especially on the European Union countries. The accession of some of the Central and Eastern European Countries into the EU will be an essential landmark from an economic, political and social point of view, and will have important implications for the Common Agricultural Policy. At the same time, for the countries that have applied for membership, or which will apply in the near future, and for those countries which will be able to set up free trade areas, there will be important reflections on the agro-food systems development that will deeply affect specialization and competition inside and outside Europe.
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aware of these problems, promoted, in cooperation with the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Bologna and the local and economic bodies of Romagna, that is one of the most developed and qualified agro-industrial district, an International Conference aimed at discussing the issues related to the transition of agro-food systems in former planned economies and their integration into the EU. In the framework of the International Conference held at the Alma Mater Studiorum Residential Training Centre – Bologna University in Bertinoro near Forlì, a group of experts coming both from Eastern and Western countries and having different cultural experiences and political responsibilities, prepared a Memorandum on East-West Agro-Food Systems Towards the Third Millennium containing proposal which are particularly significant and relevant in order to face, in a coherent way, the urgent problems that will emerge over the next few years.
The Group of Bertinoro considers the current dramatic changes in Europe's former centrally planned economies which are reshaping their economic, social and political structures as an historic opportunity for increasing economic welfare and political stabilisation throughout Europe. As many obstacles remain to be conquered, the objective of this memorandum is to assist in capturing this opportunity by listing strategy priorities and recommendations for policy-makers and international institutions on the agro-food system. The Group of Bertinoro urges the Governments of all European Countries to design agricultural policies consistent with sustainable development, which includes both economic sustainability; taking into account productivity, quality and technological change and environmental sustainability and, more general, to promote an equilibrium between production growth and environmental quality, to integrate agricultural policies as a consistent part of a more general rural and regional development strategy.