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Green light to the EU Council conclusions on the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas

Nov 24, 2023 | EU institutions

Author: Blanca Casares (AEIDL)

Tools4CAP welcomes with interest the approved conclusions document prepared by the EU Council on a long-term vision for rural areas (LTVRA).

Rural areas make an essential contribution to the overall prosperity and economic strength of the European Union (EU) and to the green and digital transitions. They play a key role in matters such as food production, environmental preservation, climate action and the promotion of cultural heritage. Agriculture plays also a fundamental role in this respect and is key for the economic, social and territorial cohesion of rural areas.

The EU Rural Action Plan: A Roadmap to 2040

The Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers of the EU, held in Brussels on 20 November, gave the green light to the conclusions document on LTVRA. This document advocates for the implementation of initiatives that promote rural development and enhance the living conditions of their residents, with a focus on increased financial support beyond the funds of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The adoption of this document has taken place in the framework of the Spanish Presidency of the EU Council, and whose content was widely discussed in the high-level rural policy forum on shaping the future of rural areas, organised in Sigüenza (Spain) on 27-29 September 2023.

The Council welcomes the rolling out of the EU Rural Action Plan to achieve the goals of the LTVRA by 2040. It invites all national and regional administrations, local authorities and all stakeholders and communities to engage in the Rural Pact Community Platform. The analysis ‘The Council of the EU adopts its conclusions on the rural vision’, developed by the Rural Pact Support Office (RPSO), elaborates on some key aspects of implementation of the vision and its holistic approach.

Addressing territorial challenges

In particular, the Council invites the Commission, Member States and regional authorities to address the diverse and multifaceted territorial development challenges and complexity of rural areas and the socio-economic gaps between rural and other areas.

These conclusions seek to promote a balanced territorial development for rural areas, taking as a reference the EU Territorial Agenda 2030, highlighting the potential of rural territories to promote economic diversification, in which SMEs and cooperatives play an important role. Additionally, the conclusions underline the important role of Local Action Groups (LAGs) within the LEADER initiative and the bottom-up approach when implementing their CLLD strategies. Networking under the Rural Pact and the CAP networks, and other relevant cohesion-related networks, can play a pivotal role in disseminating and sharing information and results on the rural vision among rural stakeholders.

In response to the need for improving data collection and the quality of rural statistics, the conclusions underline the importance of expanding the EU Rural observatory, to municipal-level and, to include sex-disaggregated data and other types of functional areas. This expansion will inform the design and development of evidence-based and relevant rural policies.

Specifically, the Council notes the need to encourage digital innovation, data infrastructure and the acquisition of digital skills to boost the competencies needed for the digital transformation of rural areas.

Fostering policy synergies

The Council stresses the need to enhance the coherence and synergies between EU policies and instruments, including the CAP and the cohesion policy, and to build bridges between public authorities. It underlines concretely, that besides Cohesion Policy, the Common Agricultural Policy and the National Recovery and Resilience Plans, all relevant EU policies should, enhancing their coherence and synergies, be involved and contribute appropriate resources to support rural areas.

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