CoR strongly appreciates the Commission's proposals to reinforce ownership of rural investment and synergies between CAP and cohesion but demands more coordination with recovery funds
The publication of the long-term vision for rural areas by the European Commission is a major success for the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), which has been asking for a rural agenda since 2016. Local leaders welcome the proposal of a Rural Pact and Action Plan setting objectives and reinforcing the political ownership for investment on sustainable rural developments. The CoR appreciates the long-term vision of rural areas in all their diversity and the effort to revitalise them in a way that goes beyond agriculture and considers every policy area through the rural lens. As foreseen in the Commission's proposal, the Committee is ready to promote the mobilisation of local communities in the implementation of the rural action plan and vision. At the same time, the CoR demands that EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is coordinated not only with cohesion policy but also with the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the CoR, said: "During the pandemic, in our rural communities too many citizens had to travel long distances to get medical assistance, too many businesses were excluded from digital markets opportunities, too many students left without classes because of slow internet connections. This situation led us to propose a Rural Deal setting clear objectives and coordinating available investment tools to deliver a sustainable rural recovery. Today, we wholeheartedly welcome the Rural Pact and Action Plan proposed by the Commission within the long-term vision, as they can help orient both emergency and longer-term investments, strengthening political ownership and cooperation. Europe's agricultural policy plays a key role for our rural areas but they can exit the crisis and become competitive only with a strong and coordinated intervention of all EU policies for cohesion, innovation and recovery."
Enda Stenson (IE/EA), Member of Leitrim County Council and rapporteur on the EU Strategy for Rural Revival, stated: "I welcome the Long-term vision as an important step into the right direction, taking into account the diverse needs and the strong potential of rural areas. We have no time to lose for implementing the vision in the national recovery and resilience plans, the cohesion funds and the agricultural funds. Boosting diversified rural development must start now with concrete action which will ensure our rural communities are the best place to live, work and raise a family."
In March 2021, the CoR's Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) adopted a statement to express concern that rural areas may benefit less from the European Union's plans to help rebuild a post-COVID-19 Europe that is greener, more digital and more resilient. The statement was supported by the European Parliament's Intergroup on Rural, Mountainous and Remote Areas & Smart Villages.
According to the latest EU-wide Barometer survey, a majority of EU citizens support the EU including rural areas in public spending decisions. The key need of rural areas that is mentioned most frequently by the survey respondents is transport infrastructure and connections (44%). This is followed by access to healthcare, childcare or care for the elderly and the availability of jobs/employment/business opportunities (27%), and to digital infrastructure (26%).
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