During an event in Lednice, the Czech Republic presented its Rural Pact, a strategy that puts together citizens, local governments and stakeholders to boost the development of rural areas in the country. Members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR),
representatives of the Czech EU Council Presidency and of the European Parliament also committed to work for a real rural revival signing the joint declaration "Together for a smart rural Europe".
The needs of citizens living outside the main urban centres are the main focus of the Czech Rural Pact, presented on Thursday, 27 October, in Lednice (CZ) in the framework of the seminar organised jointly by the CoR's commission for Natural Resources (NAT) and the European Parliament Intergroup on Rural, Mountainous and Remote Areas (RUMRA) and Smart Villages.
Radim Sršeň (CZ/EPP), Deputy Minister of Regional Development of the Czech Republic and vice-chair of the NAT commission, said: "For territorial cohesion to happen, we need a holistic approach, interconnecting the concepts of Smart Villages, Smart Cities and Smart Regions. We need to diminish differences in development between urban and rural through European investment funds and tools such as CLLDs (Community-Led Local Development) by regularly applying territorial impact assessments and 'rural proofing'. At the same time, specific targets, measures and funding need still to be adjusted in order to translate words into real action to make the Rural Vision a reality."
In June, the European Commission put forward a long-term 'Vision for the EU's Rural Areas, whose aim is to make rural Europe "stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous". It includes a Rural Pact, a framework for cooperation among authorities and stakeholders at the European, national, regional and local level, and an EU Rural Action Plan.
The European Commissioner for Agriculture,
Janusz Wojciechowski, joined the meeting virtually, saying that "without thriving rural places, we cannot have a sustainable and resilient Europe. We need all policies to work towards the Rural Vision goals and to improve the lives of all rural people."
Dubravka Šuica, European Commission's Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, addressed the participants via a
video message, highlighting the importance of the involvement of national, regional, local authorities and stakeholders in the Rural Pact to build together a brighter future for rural areas.
Smart Villages and the contribution each EU fund give to rural areas was the main focus of the two-day seminar in Lednice. Local leaders, members of the European Parliament, national and regional experts explored how different levels of government as well as non-state actors can contribute to making the long-term vision a reality in the European legislation, to the benefit of rural inhabitants. They also discussed the way forward in terms of the EU's current financing period and the shaping of future decades covered by the long-term vision, showcasing success stories in Europe from Estonia to Austria, from Hungary to Spain.
Conclusions and takeaways were summarised in the declaration "Together for a smart rural Europe", adopted during the event.
Isilda Gomes (PT/PES), Mayor of Portimão and chair of the NAT commission, said: "If we really want to improve the situation of rural areas in Europe and implement our long-term vision for 2040, we need to set specific targets, measures and funding. The principle 'do not harm cohesion' must therefore be first and foremost implemented in rural areas. By using the 'rural proofing' instrument and the Smart Villages initiative we can best foster multi-policy and multi-fund approaches and make sure that our rural areas receive the best European support."
Franc Bogovič (SI/EPP), co-chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Rural, Mountainous and Remote Areas (RUMRA) and Smart Villages, said: "Both the pandemic and the war have brutally uncovered our vulnerability and our dependence. Simultaneously they have strengthened our resolve and our resilience. Smart Villages that enrich and foster our rural life are a large part of the solution. They empower rural communities and give them the necessary tools to solve their shortcomings. Our rural areas have the potential to be the most flexible and thereby resilient regions of our continent, with a local population that is autonomous and has the ability to find sustainable solutions on the run. This is true for connectivity (high-speed broadband), sustainable agriculture, precision farming, e-health, tourism, energy, mobility, education and social cohesion."
Jan Grolich (CZ/EPP), Governor of South Moravian Region who hosted the event, declared: "It was very important to discuss how to use all our available resources to address rural issues.
Local energy supply based on renewable sources and also the technologies that can improve the availability of essential services in healthcare, social care, commerce and culture were the main focus of the event. Our region – South Moravia – would not be what it is without villages, and we must do everything we can to keep rural areas unique and alive."
The Rural Pact is one of the initiatives announced in the
Commission's long-term vision for rural areas, published at the end of June 2021. It was formally launched in December 2021 and inaugurated at high-level conference in Brussels in June this year. The Pact aims to mobilise public authorities and stakeholders to act on the needs and aspirations of rural communities. It is meant to provide a common framework to engage and cooperate at EU, national, regional and local level.
The CoR-RUMRA joint
seminar entitled "Community-led Local Development and Smart Villages as Innovative Tools for Effective Development of the Rural Areas" represents an important contribution to the Rural Pact process and builds on the conclusions of the
Conference on the Future of Europe. It is also connected to the start of implementation of the 2021-2027 programming period in most of the Member States, introducing Smart Villages as a new EU policy and promoting wider use of territorial instruments and integrated approaches like
Matteo Miglietta - CoR
Tel. +32 (0) 470 89 53 82
Adam Mouchtar – RUMRA
Tel. +32 (0) 499 42 16 55