Semi-natural hay meadows are among the most biodiversity-rich terrestrial ecosystems, and are managed for conservation purposes in most of Europe, including Sweden. Romania has some of Europe's largest areas of grasslands still managed with traditional methods. Through interviews and field studies, current management practices were investigated in two Romanian villages, and compared with CAP-generated grassland management in Swedish hay meadows and historical Swedish management of grasslands. The study evaluated the effect of the eligibility criteria within both countries’ National Rural Development Programmes (NRDPs) on different ecologically important components of hay meadow management. The success of Swedish management was measured by assessing population trends for 25 grassland plant species. Current management proved to be considerably more diverse in Romania than in Sweden, but historical Swedish management was similar to management in Romania. Both countries’ NRDPs provide support for some management components, but create barriers against other components. The Romanian NRDP contained more barriers than the Swedish NRDP, yet Swedish management showed little success in preserving grassland plants. NRDPs should nourish the use of local and traditional knowledge in order to preserve biodiversity in semi-natural grasslands. There are major limitations in both countries’ NRDPs.