The Smart Villages concept, developed under the 2016 Cork Declaration, has been more and more tested and implemented in rural areas. The approach is an additional tool for territorial development and can contribute to bridging the rural-urban digital gap, enhancing social cohesion and quality of life and increasing the overall territorial attractiveness. Smart Villages can also help to deliver the Green Deal’s objectives under the post-2020 CAP, for instance by facilitating the transition to renewable energies.
Since the 2016 Cork Declaration, the Smart Villages concept has received the public support of multiple EU institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee. The European Parliament’s Think Tank recently published a briefing on Smart Villages (March 2021) to show how the concept has evolved and to take stock of the work carried out by institutions and civil society. Euromontana is pleased to see that the briefing outlines our contribution in designing and promoting the approach.
Smart Villages for smarter mountains
Euromontana has worked on the Smart Villages concept since 2017 as member of the European Network for Rural Development’s Thematic Group on the topic.
Through the Horizon 2020 project SIMRA (Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas), Euromontana also contributed to broaden the definition of the concept, by advocating that the Smart Villages approach should not be limited to digital innovation and should pay greater attention to social innovation, which has a considerable potential for territorial development, social cohesion, services provision and green transition in mountain areas. This approach was also reflected in the event “How can Social Innovation Help Villages become Smarter?” co-organised by Euromontana and the European Parliament’s former intergroup RUMRA in July 2018.
Within the current parliamentary term, Euromontana is also a founding and supporting organisation of the European Parliament’s intergroup RUMRA & Smart Villages, which advocates for a digital and sustainable transition in rural, mountainous and remotes areas.
Euromontana contributes to demonstrating how the approach can support the sustainable development of mountain villages. Euromontana intends to increase the uptake the approach in rural and mountainous communities by also sharing inspiring examples from the Interreg Alpine Space Smart Villages project and other inspiring initiatives from mountain areas (see in particular our good practices “Cozzano: a sustainably Smart Village” and “Smart Village Scotland: Web communities for Scotland’s rural towns and villages”).
Euromontana encourage further use of the Smart Villages approach in the next programming period through a multi-fund approach focusing on both ICT and social innovation. In order to facilitate the uptake of the approach by local stakeholders, we also recommend to ringfence funds and to provide further assistance, with skilled animateurs and one-stop-shops for Managing Authorities to empower rural communities. For more information, please consult our position paper on the Long-Term Vision for Mountains’ Rural Areas.15 March 2021