Euromontana had the opportunity to question DG AGRI on the implementation of the Cork 2.0 Declaration during the workshop “Toward an EU Rural Agenda, revitalization opportunities and challenges” that took place during the European Week of Regions and Cities in October in Brussels (10-13 October 2016).
The European Commission first gave a presentation on the Cork 2.0 Conference and its final Declaration stating that its aim is to keep rural areas attractive. The necessity for Cork 2.0 came from a change in the economy, context evolution and the need for new in-puts into the policy debate. Participants came from agri-food chains (31%), environmental organizations (21%), territorial stakeholders (28%) but they were also knowledge and research providers (18%). This large diversity of participants helped to have a more participatory meeting.
Four workshops were organized on the themes of economic growth and investment; environment, natural resources and climate; rural innovation; and rural viability to identify bottlenecks and recommendations for each of these priorities and feed the final Declaration. This Declaration is structured following 10 key policy orientations, such as:
- Rural prosperity – including integrated economic development notably in the agricultural and forestry sectors, as well as quality and health. This orientation is also concerned with value chains and viability. Landscapes and preservation of cultural identity came also as element of importance.
- Rural environment, natural resources and climate action
- Transversal orientation dealing with knowledge and innovation
- Policy covering both governance and policy delivery and simplification. There is a demand to look at local needs and draw programmes per region and not for the whole of the EU. Performance and accountability are necessary to build trust.
You can find the whole declaration here.
The inclusive and participatory bottom-up approach used to write this Declaration based on the inputs of the different working groups of the Cork 2.0 Conference has been widely acknowledged and appreciated. Mountain areas are able and ready to play an active part in the implementation of the Cork 2.0 Declaration but the European Commission yet must inform the stakeholders of how this will be done at the Commission’s level.
The Commissioner Phil Hogan has said he will give the Declaration the most serious consideration. However, the absence of reference to the Cork Declaration or to the challenges of rural development in the State of the Union Speech of President Juncker (14/09/2016) should be noted.
So, what are the next steps for DG AGRI to implement this Declaration? Christiane Canenbley, member of Commissioner Phil Hogan’s Cabinet, explained that DG AGRI is currently raising awareness with other EU commissioners (notably Corina Crecu) and she stated that “A specific political agenda for rural areas is necessary”. But, different consultations processes are necessary in order to see how to implement it. The Cork Declaration should feed that political agenda and 2017 would be the time to have the discussion about the next Multi Financial Framework and then also a more general discussion regarding rural development.
Euromontana, with the members of the RUMRA (Rural, Mountainous and Remote areas) and with the European Countryside Movement, supports the idea to have a strong agenda for rural areas. An agenda for rural areas should facilitate a better integrated policy for rural areas and a better use of all the structural and investment funds, which would be very beneficial for mountain areas.
Nevertheless, the absence of reference to the rural development in the 2017 Work Programme of the European Commission (where the simplification and modernization of the CAP is barely mentioned and no other rurality related subjects) doesn’t give a strong signal that DG AGRI is ready to implement the Cork Declaration nor a real agenda for rural areas.8 November 2016