RSG Southern and Mediterranean Europe: Social Change, Challenges and Opportunities.

Convenor

Rosario SAMPEDRO.University of Valladolid, Spain,mariarosario.sampedro@uva.es

Rationale

At the beginning of XXI century, countries of Southern Europe were immersed in an uneven process of modernization and globalization, both material and cultural. This restructuring process has been radically hit by the deep crisis faced by Europe at present. This crisis is causing a profound impact on rural territories as it erodes some of the processes of rural development that these countries were experiencing in the last decades. On the one hand, economic recession has conveyed a loss of competitiveness and jobs in rural areas. On the other hand, following international directives (namely EU and IMF) policies implemented by countries have implied a severe reduction of public support to social welfare and development in rural territories, along with the implementation of a new model of governance. The outcome is an increasing number of rural areas experiencing a deterioration of life conditions.

Hence, a new scenario is shaped where the sustainability of rural areas and rural population are at stake. Nevertheless it is also crucial to understand not just the main challenges for the survival of rural territories, but also to study the room for maneuver and resilient strategies of rural communities.

Aims

The RSG Southern and Mediterranean Europe: Social Change, Challenges and Opportunities, was established in the 1st Call for the Constitution of RSG within the ESRS, in May 2014. The RSG was constituted with a double goal: firstly, to foster the debate and analysis of the main processes underlying the restructuring of rural territories in Southern and Mediterranean European countries in the new scenario of the economic crisis; secondly, to work on the joint applications that would allow subsequent comparative research. The RSG is actually composed of thirteen researchers from five different countries: Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

Activities for 2016

The RSG conducted its first International Conference under the title of ‘Southern and Mediterranean Europe: Social Change, Challenges and Opportunities in a Time of Crisis’, at the Institute of Mediterranean Agricultural and Environmental Sciences of the University of Evora, Portugal, 11-12 December 2014. It enhanced its activities in 2015 with two main events: the co-organization of the Working Group (WG): ‘Southern and Eastern rural Europe under neo-liberal restructuring: Challenges, resistances and emancipations’, at the XXVI ESRS Congress held in Aberdeen, Scotland, 18-21 August  2015, and the active participation of its members in the International Seminar ‘Human capital, wage labour and innovation in rural areas’, held in Athens, 23-24 October 2015. Information about these activities is available in the website of the RSG (https://mediterraneaneurope.wordpress.com/).

The RSG will continue its activities in 2016 by organizing a roundtable entitled ‘Resilience strategies in northern and southern Europe: towards a smart and sustainable rural development?’ in the context of the XI CIER (Iberian Conference of Rural Studies) to be held in Vila Real, Portugal, 13-15 October, 2016. This event will allow the members of the RSG to work deeply and collectively in some theoretical or methodological issues referring to resilience strategies and adaptation of rural communities to economic crisis.

Three main questions will be discussed in the roundtable: (1) Is resilience a useful concept to understand responses of rural communities to economic crisis and other global changes? (2) Are Southern European resilience strategies different from the rest of Europe’s? (3) May these strategies lead to –or prevent to get to- smart and sustainable rural development?

The discussion and exchange of ideas on these questions by using the results of research already obtained in Southern and Mediterranean countries is expected to be a strong base for the design of future comparative research projects.
For further information, please visit our blog at https://mediterraneaneurope.wordpress.com/