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Journal ArticleDOI

(Not) learning from the past? The diffusion of the EU’s rural development policy in its neighbouring countries

18 Sep 2017-Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies (Routledge)-Vol. 21, Iss: 2, pp 234-250

Abstract: After the Arab revolts the EU attempted to contribute to the rural development of the Arab Mediterranean states by designing the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD). Through ENPARD the EU tried to diffuse policies that were implemented in the new member states (NMS) and the candidate countries. Based on the experiences of one NMS (Croatia) and one candidate country (Turkey), the article surveys what is (not) learned from the pre-accession programmes and the limits of policy diffusion in Egypt and Tunisia. The article claims that policy diffusion must be distinguished from policy convergence and that policy success must be contextualized by taking into account the role of domestic actors in each case study.

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1
(Not) Learning from the Past? The diffusion of EU’s rural development policy in its
Neighbouring Countries
ABSTRACT
After the Arab revolts the EU attempted to contribute to the rural development of the Arab
Mediterranean states by designing the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture
and Rural Development (ENPARD). Through ENPARD the EU tried to diffuse policies that were
implemented in the New Member States (NMS) and the candidate countries. Based on the
experiences of one NMS (Croatia) and one candidate country (Turkey), the article surveys what
is (not) learned from the pre-accession programmes and the limits of policy diffusion in Egypt
and Tunisia. The article claims that policy diffusion must be distinguished from policy
convergence and that policy success must be contextualised by taking into account the role of
domestic actors in each case study.
Keywords: ENP, ENPARD, policy diffusion, rural development
Introduction
The interest of analysts about the transfer of EU norms and rules to the European
Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) countries is not new. Under the umbrella of Europeanisation, a
vast part of the literature sees the ENP as a platform through which the EU attempts to transfer
to the national administrations of the partner countries all the norms and rules that the EU
members share.
1
Yet, despite the increasing body of works about policy diffusion in the ENP
countries, there is a gap in the literature about the diffusion of rural development policies in
the EU’s neighbouring countries. Especially for the Euro-Mediterranean relations, the scholarly
focus has been so far on the costs of agricultural trade and not on the transfer of rural
development policies to the Arab Mediterranean countryside.
2
Yet after the Arab revolts the ENP has entered a new phase and regarding the rural
development of the ENP countries the EU has decided to draw concrete lessons from the
accession programmes in order to improve the life of rural populations of its partners.
3
The
main aim of the EU was to make the new ENP more objective and effective and towards this
direction it created ENPARD. ENPARD is based on the older Special Accession Programme for
Agriculture and Rural Development (SAPARD) and on the Instrument for Pre-Accession
Assistance in Rural Development (IPARD).
4
IPARD and SAPARD were considered as successful
tools for the development of agriculture in Turkey and in the Balkan countries.
5
Based on this

2
success, EU policymakers are optimistic about the effectiveness of ENPARD in the North African
partners.
The article questions this mechanistic optimism of the EU’s policymakers. It argues that
the achievements of these policies must be contextualised and that crucial to their successful
diffusion is the role of domestic actors. In order to offer a clearer picture of the role that
domestic actors play in each context, the article compares the application of SAPARD and
IPARD in Croatia and Turkey with ENPARD in Tunisia and Egypt, which first implemented the
programme in the Southern rim of the ENP.
The paper starts by explaining the literature of policy diffusion mechanisms in the ENP
countries. What follows is a section with the norms and principles of rural development that
the EU wants to diffuse to the Arab Mediterranean partners after 2010. The article proceeds by
explaining the rural development policies of Croatia and Turkey; how these were supported by
the EU programmes and which factors counted for the success of the EU initiatives. After this
part, the study assesses the Tunisian and Egyptian reforms for rural development. Contrary to
the Croatian and closer to the Turkish experience, the paper argues that the aim of the North
African rural development policy so far supports mainly big farmers. This orientation of the
North African governments has contributed to the creation of a dual agricultural market and
ENPARD does not mitigate the wealth gap between the richer and poorer producers of the
North African agricultural communities.
Mechanisms of policy diffusion in the EU’s neighbourhood
As stated in the introduction studies that have tried to explore the EU’s impact on the domestic
policies of the ENP partners have grown significantly in the last decade. Mostly students of
Europeanisation have analysed the conditions and the causal mechanisms for the diffusion of
EU policies in the ENP countries and to what extent the ENP is a new threshold for the relations
of the EU with its Mediterranean partners.
6
Despite the fact that the literature on policy diffusion is heterogeneous and it draws
lessons from different schools of thought, it shares the view that policy diffusion refers to the
processes that might result in increasing policy similarities across countries.
7
The literature
suggests that the ENP governments do not adopt EU policy practices randomly, but through
common affiliations, negotiations and participation in the same institutions. This assessment
led many studies to map the various mechanisms of policy diffusion and the reasons for
adoption patterns.
The first mechanism that is used for the diffusion of policies is coercion. However, in
practice the EU very rarely uses coercion against its neighbours. As Holden has correctly
mentioned aid has become more important than hard power in the EU external affairs towards
its Mediterranean partners.
8
This brings to the surface the second mechanism, which is related

3
to the use of (positive or negative) incentives for promoting institutional models. Rewards,
financial and technical assistance and in the case of the ENP the more-for-more’ approach of
the EU concerns diffusion through manipulating the utility calculations of the partner countries.
The third mechanism that many studies explore is learning. This is the process where
policymakers observe policies that have been adopted elsewhere and learn from the
experiences of others. In this regard the EU is perceived as teacher of norms and practices. An
important element of this mechanism is the process of socialisation through which partners
redefine their identities and interests.
9
In this case the European Commission (EC) and the
other EU agencies become socialisation platforms, which communicate rules, norms and
practices to the ENP partners.
In reality these mechanisms hardly operate in isolation and as Börzel and Risse mention
none of these mechanisms assumes that the EU neighbours should be considered as passive
decision takers.
10
The EU partners have their own systems of beliefs through which they filter
the EU policies and rules. Often met with skepticism or resistance the EU practices are
incorporated into the existing structures rather they replace them. Radaelli highlights the
importance of these particularities arguing that the political context at the receiving end of the
EU policies can lead to policy diffusion without convergence.
11
At this point it is necessary to explain the differences between diffusion and
convergence. As stated above policy diffusion is a process which leads to similarities between
countries, but these similarities can stay at the level of discourse (such as the adoption of
similar principles) and to the adoption of some commitments. This type of diffusion should not
be confused with convergence at the level of the use of instruments or convergence of
results.
12
In other words the successful diffusion of norms and principles does not necessarily
indicate the successful implementation of commitments (in this paper support to smaller
farmers of the ENP countries through the use of ENPARD). The article builds on this distinction
between diffusion and convergence. The next section explains what the EU tries to diffuse in
the area of rural development to the neighbouring countries after the Arab revolts.
The EU Rural development policy: What does the EU try to diffuse in the ENP countries?
As the price-distorting mechanisms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were under attack
from groups both within and outside Europe, EU policymakers were forced to reform rural
support policies. Deviating from the large-scale state investments in infrastructure, EU rural
development reforms attempted to promote the concept of integrated rural development. In
practice the launch of the first integrated rural development programme in the EU was
implemented in 1982 in ten pilot rural areas of different member states;
13
but the principles of
the EU rural development policy became an integral part of the EU discourse after the first
European Conference on Rural Development in Cork in 1996.

4
The focus of the new approach was on small and medium scale industries and rural
services. The concept advocated the economic diversification of the income base of family
farms and the incorporation of the different aspects of rural development (such as the
management of natural resources and the enhancement of environmental functions) in one
legal and policy framework. In addition, the new concept supported the modernisation of the
local and regional administration and the exchange of experiences through networks between
regions and rural communities.
14
Deviating from the top-down experience of the previous policies, the new concept
invited local farmers to contribute to the design and the implementation of rural development
projects through the creation of Local Action Groups (LAGs). LAGs are local partnerships
between farmers, trade unions, local political representatives and other community service
providers (such as women and youth organisations), which are responsible for identifying and
implementing local development strategies and making decisions about the allocation of
financial resources.
The new integrated approach for rural development aimed to bring convergence to the
disadvantaged regions of Europe and to the fragile rural economies of the NMS and candidate
countries. For EU policymakers this model could be diffused to the countries of North Africa, as
the Arab revolts in Egypt and Tunisia have highlighted abject rural poverty, regional disparities
and neglect of rural areas. For the former commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development
Dacian Cioloş ENPARD sends a clear signal of the EU’s willingness to put agriculture back at the
core of its relations with the ENP partners. According to him the EU was ready
to share our experience, our know-how, in the framework of a solid partnership for
rural development and for the sustainable valorisation of these regions’ agricultural
potential. That is the meaning of ENPARD programmes. It is not merely about
funding, but also about working methods, which have been shown to be effective,
in particular during the accession of the new EU member states.
15
In the same vein, the former Commissioner of Enlargement and ENP Štefan Füle added that the
diffusion of the working methods that have been successful to the NMS will help to achieve the
aims of the new ENP, namely to contribute to more employment in rural areas and to support
inclusive growth.
16
However, this mechanistic approach of EU policymakers is not accurate. As
the next case studies show the success of integrated rural development depends on the role of
domestic actors. The next sections analyse the diffusion of the EU rural development policy in
different contexts and to what extent the results in each case converge with each other.

5
The implementation of the pre-accession programs in Croatia and Turkey
During the accession period, the development of agriculture was one of the main priorities for
the Croatian government and it still is for the Turkish administration. The share of agriculture in
the national GDP of both countries, the size of agricultural land and the people that live in rural
areas were (and still are) much higher than the EU average. For example, 48 per cent of the
Croatian people live in rural areas and the agricultural sector adds almost 10 per cent to the
national GDP.
17
In Turkey agriculture adds more than 8 per cent to the national GDP and 25 per
cent of the total population lives in rural areas.
18
To support the agricultural sector of the two
countries, the EU has created SAPARD and IPARD. SAPARD started in 1999 and it was
implemented only in Croatia.
19
This was replaced by IPARD in 2007 and its funds have been
used by both countries. The priorities of the programmes were identified in the Accession
Partnerships that the two countries negotiated with the EU. Their objectives were to enhance
the competitiveness of the local farmers and to help the two countries implement the EU
acquis in order to prepare them for the CAP.
In Croatia SAPARD relied on the Agriculture and Rural Development Plan (ARDP). The
programme lasted for two years (2005-06) and was replaced by a second ARDP for the
implementation of IPARD in 2007. This programme ended with the accession of the country in
the EU in 2013.
20
Following the aforementioned principles of integrated rural development, the
ARDP of 2005-06 was the first comprehensive attempt to support the national agricultural
sector. The aim of the previous Croatian plans was only to increase the national production
without any specific measures for rural development. Until the end of 1990s most agricultural
measures were taken from the previous Yugoslavian legislation and even when some reforms
were introduced in 1999, due to demands of the World Trade Organisation, these focused on
direct price subsidies and trade policies.
21
Rural development was linked to market policies and
was perceived as an automatic outcome generated by increased productivity.
22
The failure of
these plans to improve the competitiveness of the sector resulted to massive flows of people
towards the urban centers and contributed to the depopulation of the rural areas.
Furthermore, the underdeveloped infrastructure in rural areas and the problematic access of
the rural population to public institutions added more constraints to the development of
agriculture.
Domestic pressures for the decentralisation of the decision-making process and the
increasing role of the Croatian civil society in rural areas led the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture
to adopt a multi-sectoral approach for the development of the sector. Due to the tragedy of the
war in the 1990s Tudjman created an even more centralised structure than the communist
government. The share of the local authorities from the national budget was much lower than
the pre-war years; the funds for the regional authorities were just one third of the pre-war
revenues.
23
After the end of the Tudjmanist era, the successive right-wing government tried to

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