On 1 May 1 2004, after a 14-year transitional period from central planning to market economics, eight Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) became members of the European Union (EU). Bulgaria and Romania are preparing for accession and are expected to join in 2007. Croatia submitted its application for membership in 2002 and Macedonia in 2004. Part 1 of this paper presents an overall analysis of the situation and development of producer groups and farmer cooperatives across the CEE countries, including the new EU members, the applicant countries and Balkan states alike. Part 2 provides a case study of FAO's experiences and lessons learned with technical assistance programmes and projects in the subregion. The example presents a number of practical suggestions as to how development organizations, governments, donors and advisers might be best able to facilitate the formulation and implementation of policies and strategies that promote the further development of more autonomous and financially sustainable producers' organizations and cooperatives in CEE countries.