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News blog28 June 2021Directorate-General for Communication

A long-term vision for rural areas

“We have all experienced first-hand the effects of Covid-19 and in rural areas this has been felt even stronger with isolation being a big worry for both old and young in rural areas. We feel it is important that rural areas are maintained and potentially improved. Rural areas are not only enjoyed by those residing there, therefore a bright future for rural areas will not only benefit the residents but also the visitors to the area.”

A long-term vision for our rural areas

“We have all experienced first-hand the effects of Covid-19 and in rural areas this has been felt even stronger with isolation being a big worry for both old and young in rural areas. We feel it is important that rural areas are maintained and potentially improved. Rural areas are not only enjoyed by those residing there, therefore a bright future for rural areas will not only benefit the residents but also the visitors to the area.”

”Macra na Feirme, Irish NGO representing rural young people from farming and non-farming backgrounds

Young people care about our rural areas and their protection. In one of my recent citizen’s dialogues with young Europeans, I was asked many questions about rural areas, and what we can do to protect and support them. From Croatia and Portugal to Slovenia and France, young people are concerned about the challenges affecting the growth of rural areas. They voiced their opinions and ideas about the need for better mobility, increased information sharing and access, and improved connectivity, especially as education and work have moved online. I continue to be impressed and inspired with the quality of engagement,  passion and knowledge that comes from these exchanges.

However, it is not just young people and children that are engaging. These grass-root ideas and people’s life-stories come up in my regular contacts with citizens of all ages. These  ideas and stories demonstrate the intergenerational concerns, hopes and aspirations that surround rural areas inside the EU. Did you know that they are home to 137 million people and cover 80% of the EU territory? Strengthening the vitality of these areas is essential in building our future, and to ensuring that no one is left behind. This is why I am proud to be a part of these dialogues with citizens, and I am proud to share that we will be adopting our Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, later this week.

farmers, people walking in country side

The ultimate goal of the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas is to inspire rural areas to realise their full potential and to become even more vibrant, dynamic and attractive. I know this is important because we wrote this Vision for the rural areas and with the people from rural areas. All with the goal to empower rural areas, connect them, and enable them to be more resilient and prosperous, to reach their full potential, and maintain their unique character.

How can this goal be achieved? We are proposing specific actions to provide the means for improved services, training and education and to support innovative small and medium sized enterprises in all sectors. These are outlined in the EU Rural Pact and the EU Rural Action Plan.

The Rural Pact will be a symbol of the deep partnership that exists between the European Commission and rural areas. It will provide a common framework for the engagement and cooperation of a wide range of actors, and it will bring different EU policy areas together to create an innovation ecosystem, boosting sustainable transport links and digitalisation, increasing environmental, climate and social resilience and supporting economic diversification. This will be supported, monitored and improved through the following actions:

  • Rural Proofing. The Commission will support and monitor the implementation of the EU Rural Action Plan and will regularly update it. The aim is to observe the potential impact and implication of any policy on rural jobs, growth and sustainable development. This will be done in liaison with Member States and rural actors. All EU policies will be reviewed through a rural lens.
  • A rural observatory will be set up within the Commission to improve data collection and analysis on rural areas. It will provide evidence to inform policy making in relation to rural development and support the implementation of the Rural Action Plan.
3 children in the country side

Once adopted, we will move at full speed to implement the Vision’s actions, thereby improving the quality of life in our rural areas; leaving no-one and no-where behind. By the end of 2021, the Commission will establish an EU participatory process with the Committee of the Regions to continuously assess and evaluate the path towards the achievement of the goals of the Vision. Then, by mid-2023, we will take stock of what actions, financed by the EU and Member States, have been carried out and programmed for rural areas. This exercise will highlight gaps where they exist and will show what we are doing well and where improvements may be necessary.

In early 2024, we plan to publish a public report to identify areas where enhanced support and finances are needed, and to propose what further steps will be required. The discussions around the report will feed into the reflection on the preparation of proposals for the Commission budget for the 2028-2034 programming period.

But it is not just us who are working on the future of rural areas. Many of your friends and neighbours are too! Through the Conference on the Future of Europe, there are many people, of all ages and backgrounds, engaging and debating on topics that concern them and their future. And rural areas is one of the subjects that comes up time and again. So I invite you to connect with us, and with citizens from all over Europe, to exchange ideas and visions, to help us co-create the future of our rural areas.

Details

Publication date
28 June 2021
Author
Directorate-General for Communication