The EU’s rural policy should be maintained and strengthened, says the Council of the EU (EU 27 agriculture ministers) in its conclusions on the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, adopted at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH) on 20 November 2023.
The long-awaited Council conclusions welcome the Rural Vision and its holistic approach. Highlighting the challenges related to service provision, demographic change, food supply or climate change, the Council welcomes the actions taken by the European Commission since 2019 in the framework of the Rural Vision and the Rural Pact. The Council also underlines the need to take into account the specific needs of regions suffering from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps, such as mountain areas.
The conclusions contain key elements to guide and inform upcoming policy discussions on the way forward for rural policy. Among other things, Member States support tailor-made and community-based policies, encourage the use of rural proofing and promote greater cooperation between rural and urban areas.
The conclusions provide strong political support for the Rural Vision in the next mandate and programming period. In particular, Ministers call for all relevant policies, beyond the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy, to contribute to the objectives of the Rural Vision. With regard to funding, the Council calls for the establishment of a monitoring system to evaluate EU funding in support of rural areas. It also calls for a procedural framework at the beginning of each programming period to ensure complementarity, coherence and synergies between policies. The Council also notes that future funding should reflect the important role that rural areas play for society as a whole.
Euromontana welcomes these conclusions which provide a basis for future policy action. While policies need energy and time to deliver visible results, these conclusions ensure the support of Member States to the objectives of the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas for the current and next programming period. Euromontana joins the Council in calling for a continuation and acceleration of efforts in the coming years, especially in the preparation of the next programming period of the European Funds beyond 2027. In particular, Euromontana supports the development of an ambitious Multiannual Financial Framework with a strong budget for rural Europe and the introduction of a clear earmarking of funds for rural areas and other areas with specific demographic and geographical constraints listed in article 174 of the TFUE.29 November 2023