EU Council endorses the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas

Dec 1, 2023

Author: Blanca Casares (AEIDL)

Editor: Miranda García (AEIDL)

MOVING welcomes the conclusions document endorsed by the EU Council on the EU’s Long-term vision for rural areas (LTVRA). This vision aligns closely with MOVING’s objectives of fostering sustainable development and enhancing the viability of mountainous regions.

Rural areas, including mountainous regions, are crucial for the overall prosperity and economic robustness of the European Union. These areas are central to the EU’s green and digital transitions, contributing significantly to food production, environmental conservation, climate action, and cultural heritage preservation. The agri-food sector, a pillar in these regions, plays also a vital role in their economic, social, and territorial cohesion.

A Roadmap to 2040 with the EU Rural Action Plan

During the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers meeting in Brussels on 20 November, a pivotal step was taken with the approval of the LTVRA conclusions document. This document advocates for the implementation of initiatives that promote rural development and improve living of their residents, focusing on enhancing financial support beyond the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds.

This adoption, under the Spanish Presidency of the EU Council, aligns with the discussions held at the High-level Rural Policy Forum on Shaping the future of rural areas, organised by the Spanish EU Presidency and the European Rural Pact in Sigüenza, Spain, on 27-29 September 2023.

The Council acknowledges the role of the EU Rural Action Plan in achieving the LTVRA objectives by 2040. It calls for engagement from national and regional administrations, local authorities, stakeholders, and communities in the Rural Pact Community Platform. Particularly noteworthy is the establishment of a specialised Community Group focusing on mountainous regions. This group aims to address the unique challenges and opportunities in these areas, directly aligning with MOVING’s mission to enhance the viability of mountainous regions.

The Rural Pact Support Office (RPSO), through its analysis ‘The Council of the EU adopts its conclusions on the rural vision’, provides in-depth insights into the implementation of this vision and its comprehensive approach.

EU reports bolster rural strategy

This strategic direction is further supported by recent key reports, including the JRC’s publication on ‘Opportunities and challenges for remote rural areas in the European Union’, which offers a detailed analysis of the unique challenges faced by these regions.

Additionally, the European Commission’s recent DG AGRI report, ‘Summary of CAP Strategic Plans for 2023-27’, sets a precedent for future policy directions. This report underscores the value of the CAP and its strategic plans in supporting incomes, ensuring soil and environmental protection, and fostering diversification, particularly in remote rural and mountain areas.

Next steps in the revitalisation of rural areas

The Council urges the Commission, Member States, and regional authorities to tackle the diverse challenges and complexities of rural areas, including the mountainous regions, addressing socio-economic disparities between rural and other areas.

The conclusions propose a balanced development for these areas, taking as a reference the EU Territorial Agenda 2030. They highlight the potential for economic diversification, where SMEs and cooperatives are instrumental. 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.

The Council emphasizes improving data collection and enhancing rural statistics quality, advocating for the expansion of the EU Rural observatory. This includes incorporating sex-disaggregated data and other functional area types, crucial for developing evidence-based, relevant policies.

Specifically, the Council recognizes the necessity of fostering digital innovation and skills for the digital transformation in rural areas.

Enhancing data collection and digital innovation

The Council highlights the need for increased coherence and synergies between EU policies, including the CAP and the cohesion policy, particularly emphasizing the integration of all relevant EU policies. This approach should support the mountain areas, a central concern of the MOVING project, ensuring that these policies contribute effectively and resourcefully.