European Interest

Agriculture MEPs request fair conditions for EU’s rural areas


Rural areas need immediate and fair policies and funding to tackle numerous challenges rural communities face.

In the draft resolution on “A Long-Term Vision for the EU’s Rural Areas – Towards stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas by 2040”, adopted by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on Tuesday by 36 votes to 1 and 10 abstentions, MEPs, led by rapporteur Isabel Carvalhais (S&D, PT), stress the key role of rural areas and call for immediate EU and national measures tailored to the rural areas needs.

Central role of rural areas and challenges they face

Crises related to COVID-19 and the Russian war in Ukraine have demonstrated the importance of rural areas for food security in Europe, remind the MEPs and further stress the role rural areas play in preserving rural heritage, fostering nature conservation or providing landscapes for recreation. Yet, these areas face demographic decline, poverty, the lack of job opportunities and high-quality services, including healthcare and education, as well as poor connectivity.

The Agriculture Committee therefore calls for public investments to ensure equal access to these services in rural regions and for an inclusive infrastructure planning regarding both transportation and broadband coverage. In this regard, the adopted report highlights new opportunities for rural areas brought by the extended use of teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Better and dedicated financing from EU funds

MEPs stress the need for synergies of EU funds and policies and call for a proper implementation of a rural territorial dimension during the current multiannual financial framework programmes. They invite the Commission to develop a mechanism to assess and monitor the contribution each EU fund makes to rural areas.

For the future, MEPs propose dedicated funding to rural areas. To this end, the Commission should launch a study on the possibility of earmarking a share of the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund to rural areas.

Involvement of citizens and rural proofing

In their text, MEPs draw attention to the growing discontent among rural populations who feel their needs are insufficiently considered in political decision-making. The report therefore recommends to rely on regional and local governments, which still have a strong confidence of citizens, and to develop community-based, decentralized and bottom up policies and support measures, involving local actors who can best identify the needs of each territory.

The Agriculture Committee also calls for a mandatory and effective rural proofing mechanism at both European and national level to assess the impact of new policies on rural areas.

The draft resolution will be now put to a plenary vote, possibly during the December session.

The own initiative report reacts to the Commission Communication from 30 June 2021 which identifies challenges rural areas are facing and highlights opportunities available to these areas. In the Communication, the Commission proposes a Rural Action Plan focused on empowering rural communities, improving connectivity, preserving natural resources and ensuring access to jobs as well as diversifying economic activities.

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