On the 21st of May 2019 more than 50 professionals from national ministries, research institutes, LAGs and other rural development institutions from all over the EU gathered in Brussels for the ENRD workshop “Combatting rural depopulation: creating new opportunities for vibrant rural areas”. Main goals of the workshop were enhancing the understanding of the key drivers of depopulation, exploring the role of the rural development policies in combatting rural depopulation and sharing good practices.
To start, Klára Fóti from Eurofound and Andrew Copus from the James Hutton Institute presented recent scientific studies from the field of rural depopulation. Klára Fóti introduced the participants to some findings of the latest “European Quality of Life Survey” comparing rural and urban communities and Andrew Copus gave an overview of what “depopulation” actually means and how to analyse and deal with it. After this, Orsolya Frizon-Somogyi from DG AGRI gave some recommendations about how to support people who want to move to or stay in rural regions. In her opinion Member States should spend more money from the CAP on basic services and on LEADER to enable regions to change negative trends. Regarding young people who want to move away from rural regions to study or work, she proposed to change the prevalent approach; instead of trying to hold them back, regions should give them reasons to return.
After these introductory speeches in plenary the group split up into subgroups. The first round was about the thematic fields of mobility & basic services, entrepreneurship and vulnerable groups. In the second round the participants discussed about their experiences in combining different policy instruments to reverse the trend of depopulation.
The closing panel was about how to put the results of the day into practice. In this discussion the importance of integrated strategies and especially soft factors (even though they make reporting more difficult) was highlighted. Andor Urmos from DG REGIO pointed out that, therefore, the true drivers of depopulation must be determined and Ines Bulic-Cojocariu from the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) added that, in order to become inclusive, people in rural regions need to have access to all the services they need.
One aspect that was often mentioned throughout the conference was, that a positive approach of talking about rural region is needed instead of only speaking about challenges and disadvantages. Michael Fischer from the Austrian NRN called this “new narratives”. The workshop was a good starting point for different stakeholders in Europe to develop these positive new narratives.
Jonas Marhoff, trainee in ELARD attended to the workshop.
Find here the agenda and the presentations of this workshop.