Throughout Europe, out-migration, the decline in farming incomes and the aging of populations are creating huge strains on the viability of rural areas. In some cases, finding new uses and owners of land is complicated by incomplete land reforms, ownership disputes as well as unwilling would be inheritors. Laws and policies designed to facilitate the land market have not been able to halt the rise in abandoned land and the increasing gap between urban and rural per capita incomes. In some regions, policy initiatives have been introduced to create special land holding institutions, empowered accumulate and manage land on behalf of elderly owners, creating new income streams and supporting proper environmental care of the land.
The aim of this research is to investigate how public institutions address intergenerational problems connected to rural land ownership placing this in the wider context of changing socio-economic rural profiles. It will review the literature linking rural development to demographic change, examining why certain property regimes successfully adapt to aging and shrinking populations, whilst in others, large areas are effectively abandoned with all the accompanying negative consequences. Although the issues is a large problem in former socialist countries, it also affects countries that had, until recently, large agrarian populations. We will identify the critical drivers of successful adaption through a series of country reports that combine up to date statistical data, local research as well as interviews with state officials, professional associations, researchers and NGOs dealing with the topic. The following countries have been selected for case studies, each allows for a range of variables to be explored: Portugal, Poland, Bosnia, Serbia, and Ukraine.