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Rural Europe: which way to go? A call for a European long-term vision for the development of rural areas

 

In September 2019, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, announced her wish to develop a new long-term vision for rural areas, which will be developed by the Vice-President for Democracy and Demography with the support of the Agriculture Commissioner.

In this context, the event “Rural Europe: which way to go?”, organised at the European Parliament on January 22, 2020, by the MEP Ciolos, was the opportunity for policymakers to reflect on the place of rural areas in the future of Europe.

 

An expected European long-term vision for rural Europe

MEP Dacian Cioloș, President of Renew Europe and former EU Commissioner for Agriculture, opened the event by calling for a better consideration of rural areas in European policies, including in the Cohesion Policy, and welcomed the European Commission’s initiative to launch a Conference on the Future of Europe, a debate to be used in his view to increase rural areas’ visibility.

Present at the event, the new Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, also shared the feeling that Cohesion Policy is not doing enough for rural areas, where the needs are specific due to different issues such as depopulation and ageing population. Reminding that the EU has a long-term strategy on topics such as climate change and energy, the Commissioner justified the need for an EU long-term vision for rural areas– on which he now has to work on with the European Commission’s Vice-President for Democracy and Demography.

 

A joint parliamentary call for a more integrated policy for the territorial development of rural areas

MEPs from the new RUMRA & Smart Villages intergroup reinforced the idea that more visibility should be given to rural areas in the coming debates. Franc Bogovič (EEP), co-chair of the intergroup, regretted that rural areas are not high enough on the European agenda and that they receive only a small part of European funds even though they are part of the answer to current challenges, such as the Green Deal. On this regard, MEP Bogovič proposed to amend the Cohesion Policy package 2021-2027 by including in the ERDF regulation that a minimum of “5% of the ERDF resources available at national level under the Investment for jobs and growth goal, other than for technical assistance, shall be allocated to integrated territorial development in non-urban areas with natural, geographic or demographic handicaps or disadvantages or which have difficulty accessing basic services.” Moreover, to encourage a smarter development of rural areas with a bottom-up approach, MEP Bogovič also proposed to allocate at least 17,5% of this amount “to rural areas and communities taking into account provisions of a Smart Villages Pact to develop projects such as smart villages”.

Regarding the CAP, Eric Andrieu (S&D), also co-chair of the intergroup, added that there is currently a momentum to use with the discussions on the Green Deal, the post-2020 CAP and the European budget. “Is it not only a matter of how much we invest but also of investing in the right direction for rural areas” concluded Martin Hausling, a Green MEP member of the intergroup.

 

Proposals for a holistic vision of rural areas’ territorial development

All representatives and stakeholders agreed on the need for more synergies between the second pillar of the CAP and the Cohesion Policy for the development of rural areas, as well as on the importance of bottom-up approaches. Euromontana welcomed the reactions from policymakers and invited them to work closer with DG REGIO to create these synergies and convince those who do not already share the longstanding demands of rural organisations, such as:

  • The increased use of CLLD
  • An enhanced rural proofing for all policies
  • A European rural agenda addressing the needs of rural areas with a holistic approach and a consideration the specific needs of territories with natural constraints
  • An earmarking and ringfencing of EU funds
  • A one-stop-shop to encourage efficient multi funds approach and to increase knowledge and capacity in rural areas

 

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7 February 2020

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