Academic journal article Global Economic Observer

Challenges of the Land Reform in the Former Communist States of Central and Eastern Europe

Academic journal article Global Economic Observer

Challenges of the Land Reform in the Former Communist States of Central and Eastern Europe

Article excerpt

1. Introduction - Brief historical context of the evolution of the former communist states in Europe

After decades of Soviet political and economic domination, the countries in Central and Eastern Europe had the historic opportunity to return to political democracy and economic freedom, a process following which, against the background of the collapse and dismantling of the power and influence pole represented by the former USSR, they began their way towards economic restructuring and political reform.

Regarding these ample transformations, the scholarly literature (Boone et al" 1998) considers that the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe was the most important historical event after the end of the Second World War.

The path from totalitarianism to democracy and from a closed, state-planned and autarchic economy towards a functional market economy was difficult and lengthy and its degree of success depended on the success of structural reforms, but also on the commitment of political actors and of the civil society in these countries.

The first step in the changing of the economic development paradigm of the former communist states was the privatization of non-viable industrial enterprises (whose survival was not due to economic performance, but to public subsidies received from the state), coupled with the land ownership reform, with the dissolution of the various forms of collective ownership in the rural area and the return of the land to the former owners.

At political level, the process of democratic transformation and economic liberalization was doubled by the efforts made by all these states for the integration into the European Union.

As certain analysts have shown (McCollum & Gentle-Marsh, 1998), the "guiding light" for the postsocialist transition process and the privatization refonn in the former communist countries was the European reintegration, an objective that laid down the milestones for the ample political and social transformation process triggered by the collapse of the communist regimes in Europe. In fact, the European Union accession process was seen in these states as a symbol for achieving political freedom and economic prosperity, since the European Union itself was conceived based on the principle of using economic leverage in order to create stability and social welfare in the region.

In fact, the specialized literature (Anderson et al, 2001) considers that the desire to return to Europe, from an economic and political point of view, was one of the dominant leitmotifs of the transition processes in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, with the perspective of being a full EU member, as well as an institutional component of a single political and economic area representing a major objective of the reform in these states.

2. Land ownership reform in the rural area of Central and Eastern European former communist countries

The shift from a planned economy to a functional market economy could not have been achieved without the privatization and reform of land ownership in the rural area, winch was affected the most by nationalization and collectivization.

In the post-communist period, all Central and Eastern European states, with the exception of Poland and Hungary, engaged in some form of restitution of agricultural land property rights to the former owners.

These countries can be divided into three categories (as illustrated in Figure 1): (1) the countries which reestablished the ownership rights of the persons whose land had not been expropriated, and which also restituted a much smaller share of the land held by the state, (2) the countries which granted compensations to former owners and which provided or sold the land to the former agricultural workers, and (3), the countries which restituted agricultural land to former owners only.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Slovenia did not expropriate all the agricultural land in the communist period. …

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