Last 19th May 2021, Members of the European Parliament adopted the report “Reversing demographic trends in EU regions using cohesion policy instruments” during the plenary sitting. Initiated by the Romanian MEP Daniel Buda, the report calls upon the European Commission to adopt a vast European Rural Agenda and a new Deal on Demographics in order to find concrete solutions against depopulation.
How to reverse the trends?
The report adopted by the European Parliament recognises the specific challenges of mountain areas when it comes to demographic trends, also pointing out that the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated territorial inequalities, particularly in terms of access to services and healthcare. Furthermore, the report reaffirms the correlation between territorial attractiveness and trends like ageing, brain drain and depopulation.
MEPs therefore call for the development of services of general interest and telecommunications, in particular in rural, remote, sparsely populated and mountain areas. MEPs also urge the European Commission to provide support to these regions to boost the development of employment and education opportunities for all. SME creation, vocational training, infrastructure development and rural innovation are in particular mentioned as axis to support through the ERDF, ESF+ and Cohesion Fund.
In its report, the European Parliament points that both the awaited Strategic Plans of the Common Agricultural Policy and the national Recovery and Resilience Plans should pay attention to the risk of deeper rural depopulation and bring solutions to prevent or halt this trend. Adopted one month before the publication of the EU Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, the report also calls upon the European Commission to address the issue in this upcoming communication.
Euromontana welcomes the adoption of this report by the European Parliament and is pleased to see that the specificities of mountain areas are taken into account when it comes to demographic trends and Cohesion Policy. As requested by Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Euromontana now expects the same consideration to be given by the European Commission in its Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, which is foreseen for publication on the 30th June 2021 (see Euromontana’s recommendations).
The European Commission has already published its Green Paper on Ageing in January 2021. The Green Paper already stressed the potential of some sectors, like the Silver Economy, and funds from the Cohesion Policy to tackle demographic issues in rural mountainous areas. During the last meeting on the EPSCO Council (Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs), on 15th March 2021, Member States were invited to prepare national guidelines following the EU Green Paper to take adapted measures to support older adults (see Council Conclusions). For more information on ageing in rural Europe, you can also check our Interreg Europe SILVER SMEs project.
As stressed by MEPs, the Conference on the Future of Europe can also be an opportunity to share experiences and find solutions to cope with demographic decline. Launched on the 9th May 2021, the Conference should facilitate the debate and involvement of citizens through an online platform and regional events to come up with future-oriented proposals in 2022. Euromontana will keep you informed on how mountain communities can get involved.27 May 2021