Click here to get an automatic translation of the text below.
Regional and local leaders demand a New Deal based on a clear Rural Agenda and increased investment to help rural communities out of the crisis  

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) discussed with Janusz Wojciechowski , European Commissioner for Agriculture, how to boost recovery in Europe's rural areas. Regions and cities demand a 'Rural Deal' to set targets and coordinate Common Agricultural Policy, structural funds and the Recovery and Resilience Facility to overcome the crisis in rural areas, strengthen cohesion, make the agro-food industry greener, support local producers and diversify growth opportunities in rural communities. The Rural Deal should also provide for an inclusive governance mobilising EU, national, regional and local actors to deliver a sustainable recovery in Europe's rural areas. These points were reinforced in an opinion on the EU Strategy for Rural Revival (a real call for Rural Agenda) backed by CoR members.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added an additional dimension and urgency to the quest for rural revival in regions across the European Union. Rural areas, towns and villages have been decimated by the reduction of demand for agricultural products with the closure of bars and restaurants as well as the demise of tourism across the EU. They have also been more vulnerable as they have limited access to medical centres, hospitals, transport and poor or non-existent access to internet. The digital divide has especially impacted education and business.

And a hard Brexit risks being a tremendous knock out for many rural regions and will be devastating for rural counties such as Leitrim the home of the CoR rapporteur on Rural Revival, Cllr Enda Stenson.

" This crisis requires the EU to transform its forthcoming long-term vision for rural areas in a real 'Rural Deal'. We must deliver on our objectives to improve transport, connectivity, health and education services but also to diversify rural economies and promote sustainable local agri-food production ", said the President of the European Committee of the Regions, Apostolos Tzitzikostas.

Janusz Wojciechowski European Commissioner for agriculture said: "All policy areas and all EU funds must work together to achieve the goals of the rural Vision, optimizing the cooperation and coherence of EU and national funding. Finding better and more effective ways to use existing support mechanisms to address the needs of rural areas is indeed one of important objectives of the Vision."

During the debate CoR members highlighted the need for a systematic approach, through the adoption of a real and tangible "Rural Agenda". As the new Multi Annual Financial Framework allocations for the CAP are significantly lower than in the current programming period, it is even more important to ensure coherence and harmonisation between the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and other European funds, such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund, and Horizon Europe. Increasing investment is possible thanks to the unprecedented efforts to be deployed by the EU over the next decade and by making sure that all relevant EU policies pay attention to rural development. These synergies would enable rural actors to better tackle cross-cutting issues, improve cooperation, and improve the quality of life in rural areas.

Cllr Enda Stenson (IE/EA), Member of Leitrim County Council and rapporteur of the EU Strategy for Rural Revival , underlined: " The current pandemic crisis has exposed and exacerbated the consequences of long-standing threats faced by rural areas, and made rural revival even more urgent. We need to make our rural communities the best place to live, work and raise a family. To achieve this, we need a Rural Deal to invest in services, connectivity and people. I call on all EU institutions to work together to find solutions that guarantees an economic, social and environmental sustainability of our CAP sector and with the benefit to our rural areas. Our communities are ready so let's not miss the opportunity to revive rural areas ."

Ulrika Landergren (SE/Renew Europe), Member of Kungsbacka Municipal Council and Chair of the Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) of the European Committee of the Regions, concluded by saying that: "The polarisation of society always leads to serious problems and threats to democracy. On the one hand, there is growing inequality in wealth, and on the other, a growing divide between rural and urban Europe. This is not healthy and we must find ways to make rural communities more attractive. A Rural Deal would be a first step in that direction."

Franc Bogovič , Member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the RUMRA & smart villages intergroup , mentioned that: "No fork without farm. Trust between consumers and farmers needs to be rebuilt. Rural areas are much more than forestry and agriculture. We need resilient rural areas in which young people can have modern jobs and old people can continue their previous quality life. Quality broad band connection is the basis for this.

When you speak of smart villages we speak about health, mobility, social care, tourism, digital platforms, regenerative energy solutions and many other things. It is important to understand smart villages horizontally and start breaking down silos. We need a strategy for smart villages integrated into our cohesion fund. I have been working for this in the European Parliament tirelessly."

The present pandemic situation may also present a unique opportunity to develop and build rural areas resilience, boosting local sustainable production, by placing the emphasis on short supply chains and by aiming to promoting local and regional forms of production. Regions and cities and their local producers are key players in the transition to more sustainable and equitable food system, as described in the opinion From farm to fork – the local and regional dimension , drafted by Guido Milana (IT/PES), Member of Olevano Romano Municipal Council (Rome).

The rural and intermediate areas account for 88% of the EU's territory, are home to 55% of its population, generate 43% of its added gross value and are host to 56% of jobs.

Further information:

Contact:

Wioletta Wojewodzka

Tel. +32 (0)2 282 2289

Mobile: +32 (0)473 843 986

wioletta.wojewodzka@cor.europa.eu