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Wioletta Frys and Birte Nienaber

Protected areas and regional development: conflicts and opportunities - presented on the example of the UNESCO biosphere reserve Bliesgau

All over the world, UNESCO biosphere reserves are designated in order to protect regionally distinctive landscapes. This designation represents a significant up-valuation of nature reserves and landscape conservation areas, forests and other mostly rural landscapes. In cases where biosphere reserves include urban areas, additional objectives are established such as the development of urban-rural-relationships. The Biosphere Reserve Bliesgau which is a sustainable model region responds to this challenge. Located in a rural part of Saarland, the biosphere Bliesgau is still facing further challenges which are connected to the designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. This designation entails many obligations that are conditions and restrictions for the actors on the one hand and that provide opportunities for key personalities to make progress in achieving their aims concerning nature conservation on the other. Hence, not only prospects but potential for conflict emerged which complicates regional development in rural Saarland. A primary survey in the biosphere reserve allowed for the identification of the presented conflicts.

Open access

Birte Nienaber and Wioletta Frys

International labour migration in European rural regions - the example of Saarland, Germany

International labour migration is one of the main challenges in the 21st century for rural areas within Europe. So far, rural areas have not been in the focus of research. The project DERREG, financed by EU FP7, has investigated this phenomenon. Qualitative interviews with international labour migrants have been carried out in the rural border area of Merzig-Wadern, Saarland in the South-West of Germany. The results of these interviews on motivation, working situation, professional experience, family background, social networks, future plans, satisfaction and suggestions of improvements regarding the situation of migrants show heterogeneity, in comparison with urban migrants. However, it can be concluded that the international labour migrants are a benefit to communities in rural areas if they are well integrated.

Open access

Birte Nienaber and Irma Potočnik Slavič


Multifunctionality of rural areas in Europe has become an important aspect of rural development in the last years. An important instrument to ameliorate the multifunctionality is diversification of farm income. As various forms of farm income diversification have been developed throughout Europe, the paper will survey the effectiveness of undertaken measures. First the issue of farm diversification will be argued theoretically. Then case studies from Saarland, Germany, and from Slovenia will analyse the importance of diversification for rural areas. A comparison of the two regions will reveal the chances and risks of diversification in a comparable new and old EU member state.