Yesterday, the Long Term Vision of Rural Areas was communicated.
ELARD has been very present in the process of developing the vision, in the Thematic Working group of the ENRD, in the SHERPA project that has been giving input and we have also, through our own survey last summer “Which future do you want in rural areas” put substantial input to the needs and expectations from rural citizens all over Europe, even directly with the Commissioner and Vice president Ms Šuica.
Deriving from the survey, ELARD goals has been to insert into the vision the expressed needs of rural citizens, namely 1: Diverse and decent job-opportunities, 2: access to public services comparable to those of the cities and 3: to change the narratives that are being transported and make sure that the description of rural areas are also including the assets of these and the chances they give to society as a whole, especially in the background of the pandemic, making Europe viable and more resilient. It has also been our goal to make sure that the diversity of rural areas is considered and that the one method that can address this, LEADER and CLLD, is visible in the paper. All this has been achieved.
During the process ELARD has also been active in promoting a rural semester as a tool for real holistic policymaking on European level, but also in requesting action deriving from the vision. It is yet to be seen how this can be realised.
A positive and holistic approach
ELARD welcomes the vision and especially the effort to make a holistic approach to European rural policies, through a rural pact and also the EU Rural Action Plan. Furthermore, ELARD welcomes the fact that the Vision is treating rural areas as a whole, not only focussing on agricultural and forestry sector, but also f.e. on diversification of economy, social resilience, diversified job opportunities, connectivity through transport and broadband, and last but not least empowering rural communities.
Turning the vision into reality will be a challenge we all need to contribute in
ELARD is pleased to see LEADER/CLLD named as one of the flagships to create stronger rural areas, however we see that LAGs can contribute to all four areas, especially also to prosperous and resilient rural areas.
As we live in a world of limited means, ELARD understands that the commission proposes to turn this vision into reality through the already existing funds and programmes. However, the communication of the Vision yesterday is one year too late for the programming of the funds on national level. ELARD fears, that many member states will not consider its input enough, especially outside the CAP, even if there has been information from the commission to the member states governments in a much earlier stage to take the future vision into accounts when programming. ELARD expects the commission to keep communicating with member states in a clear and consistent manner in order to make the vision visible and considered in the programmes already now.
“Member States should …seize the opportunities offered by the CAP Strategic Plans and the Cohesion policy programmes for the 2021-2027 period to prompt sustainable and integrated rural development. In addition they should use the very significant potential of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), InvestEU, and other EU programmes, as well as of the European Investment Bank to cover existing investments gaps in rural areas. Funding needs to be mobilised coherently, in complementarity with national and regional Member State interventions, which remain crucial to providing comprehensive support to rural areas” (From the vision)
In the holistic approach, rural proofing and rural observatory will be put in place. Rural proofing, as already recommended in Cork 2.0 declaration and repeatedly also supported from ELARD, will monitor the way in which rural areas are integrated in the EU’s policies, notably through regular reports on the implementation of relevant policies.
The Commission also invites Member States to consider implementing the rural proofing principle at the national, regional and local level.
A Rural Observatory will be set up within the Commission to further improve data collection and analysis on rural areas. This Observatory will also provide evidence to inform policy making in relation to rural development while supporting the overall implementation of the Rural Action Plan.
ELARD will stay attentive, especially to see how the take-up will be from the member states through our different European Funds to create a stronger, resilient, connected and prosperous Europe.