Southern and Mediterranean Europe: Social Change, Challenges and Opportunities

The recent neoliberal period has been deepening the detrimental effects of the uneven process of globalization and modernization especially in Southern European countries. Moreover, this transformation has been radically hit by the deep economic crisis faced by the European countries. This crisis has resulted in the erosion of the rural development policies that brought success in rural areas in previous decades. The economic recession has conveyed a loss of competitiveness and jobs in rural areas. Besides, the international institutions (namely the EU and the IMF) have implied a severe reduction of redistributive policies through budget cuts along with the implementation of a new model of governance. The outcome is the deterioration of life conditions in rural areas: the closure of schools and health centers, the expropriation of commons, the impoverishment of population, increasing social inequality, the reduction of public transport facilities, and so forth. Hence, a new scenario is shaped that the demise of ruralities is at stake. Yet, it is crucial not just to understand the main challenges for the survival of rural territories, but also to investigate the maneuvering and resilient strategies of rural communities.
Considering the long-term effects of the crisis, it is clear that even a greater gap will appear between rural territories of Northern and Southern and Mediterranean Europe. This risk emphasizes the appropriateness of promoting a network of research and study focused on the sustainability of ruralities in Southern and Mediterranean Europe in this new context. Thus, the RSG has a double goal: First is to foster the debate and analysis of the main processes underlying the restructuring of rural territories in Southern and Mediterranean European countries with the effect of crisis and second is to work on joint projects that would allow subsequent comparative research.
Since its foundation in May 2014 the RSG has conducted important activities with the support of the ESRS. The information about these activities and our members is available in the website of the RSG (https://mediterraneaneurope.wordpress.com/). The recent activity was organized by our members Rosario Sampedro, the then convenor of the RSG, and Renato Miguel do Carmo who arranged Working Group 8 entitled ‘Mobilities, gender, racial and other social inequalities in rural Europe’ in XXVII. ESRS Congress held in Krakow, in July 24-27, 2017. This session focused on the various dimensions of inequality in rural areas from race to gender through a transnational lens by highlighting multiple knowledge and experiences of rural change. In addition, the members of the RSG attended not only Working Group 8 but also other working groups to play an active role in strengthening existing networks and in creating new areas of cooperation.

Convenor: Fatma Nil DONER, Istanbul Medeniyet University, fatmanil.doner@medeniyet.edu.tr