On 15-16 June, over 450 participants representing EU, national, and regional policy makers along with local authorities, social and economic stakeholders gathered for the first Rural Pact conference. They agreed on the governance of a Rural Pact and committed to achieving the long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas. Over these two days, participants and members of the Rural Pact community started making commitments to make the EU’s rural areas stronger, more connected, resilient and prosperous by 2040.
The Rural Pact is one of the main initiatives to achieve the goals of the long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas, adopted by the European Commission in June 2021. The Rural Pact is a framework for cooperation among authorities and stakeholders dealing with rural territorial development at the European, national, regional and local level. Its objectives are to amplify rural voices and bring them higher up the political agenda, to structure and enable collaboration and mutual learning, and to encourage and monitor voluntary commitments for action. Following the call made by Vice-President Šuica, Commissioner Wojciechowski and Commissioner Ferreira in December 2021 to express support for the Pact, over 1,000 representatives of public authorities, civil society organisations, businesses and research, innovation and academic organisations joined the Rural Pact community.
The conference participants who took part in the participatory workshops submitted over 40 commitments building on those presented before the conference. These commitments address specific issues arising in rural communities and areas. According to the latest Eurobarometer on rural areas published in April 2021, the key needs of rural areas mentioned most frequently by respondents are 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, mentioned by 27%. A similar proportion (26%) mention digital infrastructure. The commitments taken reflect these priorities.
The European Commission will facilitate the set up and work of the Rural Pact and will help to monitor progress on the implementation of the commitments made under its auspices. In addition, the Commission will:
- Launch the EU rural observatory to provide more detailed data on economic and demographic trends in the EU’s rural areas to inform policy making for rural development;
- Publish the toolkit on access to EU funding opportunities for rural areas, both under and beyond CAP and cohesion policy, to support local actors and project holders and realise integrated development strategies;
- Monitor how EU funds from the Common Agricultural Policy, Cohesion Policy, NextGenerationEU, Horizon Europe, Digital Europe, etc. are used to support rural areas in the 2023-27 period. The European Commission will also publish a report in 2024 with its reflection on the use of funds in the following period;
- Deliver rural proofing, including through territorial impact assessments of relevant major legislative initiatives;
- Interact with other institutions to keep rural areas high on the agenda, especially with the successive presidencies of the Council;
- Launch a website by the end of this year to have a single entry point to all rural vision activities, including the rural revitalisation platform.
Over €60 billion is available for rural development under the Common Agricultural Policy for the period 2023-27. Under the new CAP, at least 35% of these funds will be allocated to measures to support local development, climate, biodiversity, environment and animal welfare.
Over 25% of EU cohesion policy investments for the 2014-20 period also helped keep rural areas strong. Cohesion policy will continue to invest in rural areas through the partnership agreements and operational programmes of the new programming period. This will notably take place through the new cross-cutting policy objective dedicated to sustainable, place-based territorial and local development: “Policy Objective 5 – Europe closer to citizens”.
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- 17 birželis 2022
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