Abstract

Implementation of a new system of geographical information system (GIS) maps based on aerial photos to administer EU agri-environmental support payments for organic farmers in Latvia in 2005 erupted into disputes over farm boundaries, cultural landscapes, good agricultural practices and regional power dynamics. Farmers whose land area had been changed along with the change in technology were deemed to be in breach of their support payment agreements and had to repay the difference, leaving many disillusioned with the EU and considering withdrawal from the organic agriculture support programme. I argue here that this case demonstrates the complexities of EU accession for new member states, revealing the unintended consequences of the implementation of European policies in post-socialist contexts. Disputes over the organic land area reflect deeper cultural issues tied to the history of foreign domination. Furthermore, they represent a conflict surrounding ideas of space versus place. Abstract ‘maps from space’ challenge farmers' place-based knowledge and national imaginaries of agricultural landscapes. On a broader level, this conflict reflects the tensions between the imagined ‘return to Europe’ and the reality of Europe as a political and bureaucratic space.