Author: Blanca Casares (AEIDL)
Editor: Merveille Ntabuhashe (AEIDL)
Rural areas make an essential contribution to the overall prosperity and economic strength of the European Union (EU) and to the green and digital transitions. They play a key role in matters such as food production, environmental preservation, climate action and the promotion of cultural heritage. Many rural areas in the EU face challenges, including population decline and aging, a gender gap, poverty, limited connectivity, underdeveloped infrastructure, a lack of diverse employment opportunities and gaps in the availability of and access to services.
EU Council’s Approval of Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas
The Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers of the EU, held in Brussels on 20 November, gave the green light to the conclusions document on the long-term vision for rural areas (LTVRA), which advocates the implementation of initiatives that favour the development of these areas and the improvement of the living conditions of their inhabitants, with greater financial support beyond the funds of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The adoption of this document has taken place in the framework of the Spanish Presidency of the EU Council, and whose content was widely discussed in the High-level Rural Policy Forum on Shaping the future of rural areas, organised by the Spanish EU Presidency and the European Rural Pact in Sigüenza (Spain) on 27-29 September 2023.
The Council welcomes the rolling out of the EU Rural Action Plan to achieve the goals of the LTVRA by 2040. It invites all national and regional administrations, local authorities and all stakeholders and communities to engage in the Rural Pact Community Platform. The analysis ‘The Council of the EU adopts its conclusions on the rural vision’, developed by the Rural Pact Support Office (RPSO), elaborates on some key aspects of implementation of the vision and its holistic approach.
Next steps in the Revitalisation of Rural Areas
In particular, the Council invites the Commission, Member States and regional authorities to address the diverse and multifaceted territorial development challenges and complexity of rural areas and the socio-economic gaps between rural and other areas.
These conclusions seek to promote a balanced territorial development for rural areas, taking as a reference the EU Territorial Agenda 2030, highlighting the potential of rural territories to promote economic diversification, in which SMEs and cooperatives play an important role. At the same time, the conclusions underline the important role of Local Action Groups (LAGs) within the LEADER initiative and the bottom-up approach when implementing their CLLD strategies. Networking under the Rural Pact and the CAP networks, and other relevant cohesion-related networks, can play a pivotal role in disseminating and sharing information and results on the rural vision among rural stakeholders.
Enhancing Data Collection and Digital innovation
In response to the need for improving data collection and the quality of rural statistics, the conclusions underline the importance of expanding the EU Rural observatory, to municipal-level and, to include sex-disaggregated data and other types of functional areas, to inform the design and development of evidence-based and relevant rural policies.
Specifically, the Council notes the need to encourage digital innovation, data infrastructure and the acquisition of digital skills to boost the competencies needed for the digital transformation of rural areas.
CODECS Project: Advancing Sustainable Digitalisation in Agriculture
In alignment with these objectives, CODECS seeks to advance the digitalisation of agriculture, steering towards a sustainable transformation of rural areas. Proactively championing digital transformation in rural areas, the project is dedicated to fostering a future that is both sustainable and technologically empowered.