Brussels (Brussels Morning) As part of ongoing efforts to reform EU farm policy, members of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee today discussed a long-term vision to revitalize rural areas.
The parliamentary debate was centred around the EU strategy for rural revival, which the COR adopted in December 2020, as well as the European Commission‘s projection on the future of rural areas by 2040.
“We feel that the Commission can do more on this debate, and we want to make clear the importance of the role of regions for rural areas”, Paolo de Castro (S&D) declared.
The Commission was advised to set specific targets and indicators in order to provide tangible goals. Studies about the impact of the EU funds for family farms and small businesses in rural areas were also requested.
Digitalisation and jobs
During the exchange of views, a chorus of voices defended the increase of digitalisation in rural areas, as well as incentives to encourage youth to settle and thrive in those regions.
“Green and digital transitions have been neglected in rural areas. What we need is a comprehensive holistic policy”, Henrike Muller from the CoR said.
Lack of infrastructure and solid broadband networks, but also the absence of jobs and public resources were among the challenges cited by speakers during today’s debate.
Regional vs. central governance
A number of MEPs cited the the regions’ governance system as part of the problem, saying the system needed to be overhauled.
“Everybody knows that the initial proposal of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform diminishes the role of the regions by moving the management of the rural development plans to the central governments. During the Plenary in October, the European Parliament voted its position highlighting the fundamental role of the regions”, de Castro noted.
“Territorial cohesion has been weakened in recent years. The rural areas need to be bound in the European Green Deal (EGD), because without them, the EGD will be impossible and unfair”, MEP Johan Danielsson (S&D) maintained.
MEPs and representatives from the CoR have jointly pushed for increased cohesion, describing the debate and the work ahead as an “opportunity” to combat social exclusion. They pointed to the huge discrepancies between rural areas even within individual member states, assuming the need for “a common responsibility” when it comes to the proper use of EU funds for rural regions.
Natural disasters likes extreme weather events, droughts, infestations and questions about insufficient water and energy resources were also raised as examples of the kind of challenges that have to be addressed in the approach to revitalising rural regions.