From 2003 to 2006, a consortium of six European partners analysed the future of olive production systems on sloping land in the Mediterranean basin. Olive production on such land dates back to pre-Roman times, but the production systems (known by the acronym SMOPS, for "Sloping and Mountainous Olive Production Systems"), are under threat. Many are unsustainable environmentally (erosion hazard), socially (exodus of young people) or economically (high labour costs). The OLIVERO research project was possible thanks to a grant of euro1.5 million from the European Union, which gives out euro2.5 billion in subsidies annually for olive production. An extended survey conducted by the project in five sites in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece revealed the diversity and multifunctionality of SMOPS. Four main systems were identified as important for the future: traditional, organic, semi-intensive and intensive. The conceptual framework of OLIVERO involved six phases, ranging from the initial survey up to policy recommendations. In all phases there was intensive contact with stakeholders and institutions. End-users were identified at three levels: local, intermediate and regional, and national/international. This paper presents the highlights of the physical analysis of land and water resources, crop and land management, and economics and policies. Scenario studies gave insight into the possible future: some SMOPS will be gradually abandoned or transformed into nature conservation areas, others will exploit drip irrigation and follow the intensification patterns of agriculture in the valleys, and a third group will continue to be managed more extensively, perhaps augmenting their income with other activities (possibly off-farm) or turning to organic production systems. At the five international OLIVERO meetings held from 2003 to 2006, knowledge, experience and ideas on the future of olive production systems were intensively exchanged. A network was established for ongoing and future cooperation. Two end-user seminars were held in Matera (Italy) and Lisbon. Over 70 scientific papers have been published.