The EESC reaffirms commitment to the Long-Term Vision for EU’s Rural Areas

Jun 20, 2024

Author: Miranda García (AEIDL)

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has adopted the opinion of Marc Decoster, representative of the Walloon Farmers’ Federation, on Towards a greater involvement of Member States, Regions and Civil Society actors in the implementation of the Long-Term Vision for the EU’s Rural Areas (LTVRA). This endorsement reiterates the EESC’s support for the LTVRA and emphasises the importance of its implementation.

In this opinion, the EESC highlighted that the EU Rural Action Plan and the Rural Pact meet many expectations, and identify further enhancements and annual assessments to ensure these measures adequately address the needs of rural environments a set of recommendations for strengthening the impacts. MOVING partners from the European Association for Innovation in Local Development (AEIDL) were involved in the stakeholder consultation, offering valuable insights and evidence.

Enhanced involvement and governance

The EESC underscores the necessity for Member States, regions, local authorities, and various stakeholders to be actively involved in setting and implementing priorities. This multi-level and multi-stakeholder governance is crucial for the success of the LTVRA, fostering collaboration across all levels.

Adoption of rural development schemes

The EESC praises Member States and regions for adopting rural development schemes and proposes a European charter of rights and responsibilities for rural and urban areas. This charter would provide a framework for action and guide Member States in their rural initiatives.

Comprehensive EU Rural Strategy

The EESC draws attention to the Council conclusions from November 2023, advocating for a fully-fledged EU rural strategy. This strategy should be developed collaboratively by rural stakeholders and local authorities to foster a new European rural model. The EESC envisions the Rural Pact and the Rural Action Plan as the foundation for post-2027 rural development policies, tailored to the specific circumstances of various rural areas.

Policy and funding for post-2027

The committee calls for the establishment of a specific policy and dedicated funding to implement the Rural Action Plan and the Rural Pact effectively. This includes leveraging various EU funds like the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), Structural Funds, and cohesion policies.

Focus on SMEs and family structures

Emphasising the importance of SMEs, micro-enterprises, and family structures, the EESC calls for policies that support these entities, which are vital for the economic and social fabric of rural areas.

Rural observatory and data collection

The EESC highlights the role of the European Rural Observatory in understanding the needs of rural stakeholders. It advocates for the observatory to take on additional responsibilities, such as monitoring the implementation of the Rural Pact and the Rural Action Plan.

Enhancing living conditions

Specific objectives related to improving living conditions in rural areas, such as public services quality, healthcare access, digital connectivity, mobility, and housing, are essential by the EESC. These improvements are critical for ensuring a good quality of life for rural residents and making these areas more attractive.

Mountain areas and peripheral regions

The EESC recognizes the unique challenges faced by mountain areas and other peripheral regions. The committee recommends that rural development policies be tailored to the specific circumstances of these areas, ensuring they receive the necessary support and resources to thrive. This includes addressing issues such as accessibility, infrastructure, and economic diversification.

Simplification and support measures

The EESC calls for simplification measures to ease the access to EU funds for rural development. It suggests the introduction of a single project submission procedure, proportional checks, new payment rules, and the establishment of regional single points of contact to streamline processes. Additionally, the committee recommends enhancing support for local and regional organisations that play a crucial role in mentoring and coaching SMEs and micro-enterprises.

Communication and Awareness

Finally, the EESC emphasises the need for dynamic communication strategies to raise awareness about the long-term vision and the opportunities provided by the Rural Pact and the Action Plan. This includes organising events, training programmes, and leveraging media to reach all stakeholders effectively.

By reinforcing these measures, the EESC aims to ensure an inclusive approach to rural development across the EU, fostering sustainable development and prosperity of Europe’s rural regions.