The issues affecting HNV farming and the rural areas where HNV farming predominates are many and complex, but addressing them is key to the balanced and sustainable development of all the states of the region. As the EU Economic and Social Committee pointed out (Box 1), raising capacity in civil society organisations to enable them to deal with these questions is a central goal of the SEE HNV Network. The Network offers opportunities not just to learn from the experience of other countries both within and outwith the region, but to give mutual support and build each other’s confidence; common problems are better faced through collaboration.
The seeds for the Network were sown in a meeting held in Belgrade in February 2006, funded by UNEP as part of the PEBLDS process. This meeting introduced the concept of HNV farming to the region and was attended by a mixture of NGOs and Governments. A document setting out the conclusions of the event provided the starting point for the Network and its first meeting.
The first meeting of the Network was held in Sofia in December 2010.
As a follow-up to this meeting a brochure was produced, introducing HNV farming in the SEE context to a wider audience. It is available in English, Croatian, Serbian, Albanian and Macedonian.
The second meeting of the Network was held in Zagreb in November 2011.
Box 1 Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on “Rural development and employment in the Western Balkans” – Conclusions and recommendations
1.7 Pre-accession support for agriculture and rural development (IPARD) remains the major source of financial assistance in rural areas. Most of the countries have difficulties in adopting the current EU rural development model due to its complexity and demanding implementation procedures. Therefore, the EU should consider the possibility of simplifying the IPARD management and control principles and procedures to facilitate effective use of funds and measures available.
1.8 A major difficulty in accessing IPARD instruments appears to be inadequate administration and institution capacity at national and local levels, and low capacity of potential beneficiaries. The national governments are urged to put more efforts into institution-building and capacity-building of potential beneficiaries.
1.12 Civil society does not play an important role in rural areas, due to lack of entrepreneurial and organisational skills, demographic problems and poor-quality social infrastructure compared to cities. A possible solution could be to create networks of local civil society organisations in order to reach a critical mass of population and area covered. In this respect the LEADER ( 3 ) approach is a potentially useful tool for improving the participation of civil society.
Source: EESC, 2011/C 376/05, Own-initiative opinion, Rapporteur: Cveto Stantič