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Acting big for rural development and action plan for the implementation of Cork 2.0

Six months after the Cork 2.0 event and the publication of the Declaration “A better life in rural areas”, Copa and Cogeca (farmers and agri-cooperatives), CEJA (young farmers) and CEPF (forest owners)  organised a joint event in Brussels, on March 22nd, 2017. The event, entitled “Cork 2.0 Declaration – Acting BIG for rural development” aimed at showing the contribution of rural stakeholders to the bioeconomy and green growth.

The organisers of the event reaffirmed the role of rural stakeholders in rural areas whether it be in farming especially with the younger generation interested in modernizing and innovating in agriculture, the forestry sector enabling sustainable delivery of biomaterial and energy, or the agri-food sector both competitive and guarantor of cultural identities.

Policy-makers present at the event underlined the role of agriculture in the provision of public goods, as well as the necessity to integrate agriculture with other sectors such as tourism or energy.

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan took the opportunity during this event to present a few points of the action plan to implement the Cork 2.0 Declaration, such as the following:

  • A paper on EU actions for Smart Villages in April 2017 dealing with the question of how we can harness the benefits of connectivity in our villages and surrounding countryside – for instance through big data and precision technology.
  • Various actions and dedicated conferences of the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) and the European Innovation Partnership for Agriculture (EIP-AGRI)
  • Working closely with Commissioner Vella (DG environment) to take forward work on issues related to the sustainable use of water and nutrient management plans
  • Investing in the new business models of the emerging bioeconomy and build on the lessons of the European Innovation Partnership
  • Improving the uptake of locally-led initiatives in rural communities
  • Keeping young people in rural areas by addressing the well-known issues in relation to access to land; to finance; to knowledge for young farmers on one hand and by providing adequate social, community, cultural and recreational infrastructure for their families on the other hand
  • DG AGRI working group exploring possibilities for a more performance-based delivery model, shifting focus from compliance to result orientation

The implementation plan of the Cork 2.0 depends to a large extent on local stakeholders taking up the issue, without a coordinated DG AGRI framework strategy. Euromontana agrees that the success of the Cork 2.0 implementation depends on both stakeholders and the European Commission. This is the reason why Euromontana has delivered a paper on how mountain areas can contribute to implementing the Cork 2.0, explaining how our network contributes to this implementation and giving suggestions to DG AGRI on how it could further implement the Cork 2.0 declaration. Unfortunately, for the moment, the action plan proposed by Commissioner Hogan is not really ambitious and doesn’t reflect on the different issues tacked by the Declaration.

Commissioner Hogan concluded with a clear statement on the “strong role for rural development policy in the CAP in the future”. Support schemes for rural development should be targeted and result-oriented, in line with the shift of focus DG AGRI is trying to impulse from compliance to results. LEADER in particular provides effective investments in rural capacity building, reconnecting with rural citizens at the local level. Rural Development is having a positive and meaningful impact for rural citizens throughout the EU and it is needed side by side with the support offered under the first pillar. In the context of the CAP modernisation debate, Commissioner Hogan reminded the audience of his three areas for action: farm resilience, sustainable management of resources, and generational renewal.

The CAP has however fulfilled its primary objective according to him, food security, even though European agriculture now faces serious environmental challenges such as water pollution, erosion, etc. The on-going CAP consultation is an opportunity to also look at how the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Juncker priorities can be more integrated in the CAP and can bring answers for a more sustainable agriculture providing a fair income to farmers and enhancing the provision of public goods. Indeed, Commissioner Hogan stated that “providing ecosystem services is what we should encourage farmers to do more”.  The CAP consultation is still on-going until May 2nd, 2017.

Finally, the European Economic and Social Committee announced that rapporteur Sofia Björnsson’s opinion paper on the Cork 2.0 Declaration would be made public this summer, focusing on services and job creation in rural areas. Rural-proofing will be emphasised as well as the implementation of rural development policies (local – regional – national – European).

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28 March 2017

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