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Parliamentary questions
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30 March 2021
Answer given by Ms Ferreira
on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-000170/2021

1. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Regulation includes a recital, which highlights the need to address demographic issues in the EU areas, distinguishing between two categories of regions: the sparsely populated areas and the areas in demographic decline. To counter these challenges, Member States are encouraged to implement actions at local level.

Notably to prevent the depopulation in these areas, the regional state aid rules have a flexible approach that allow for an automatic designation of sparsely populated areas on the regional aid maps, with increased aid intensity, and that also provide for the possibility to grant operating aid to undertakings in very sparsely populated areas. In the current review of the regional aid guidelines, the issue of depopulated areas is being examined.

2. The Commission is well aware of the specific needs of the areas of Cuenca, Soria and Teruel, struggling with population decline. The Commission identified depopulation as a challenge for Spain in both the European Semester 2018, 2019 and 2020 country reports and in their Annex D.

For cohesion policy in the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework, a specific Policy Objective 5 was created. It tackles, inter alia, sparsely populated areas. The ERDF can provide support to improve access to basic services, connectivity, business development, mobility and modernization of depopulated areas, through integrated and participative territorial strategies . N ational and regional authorities have to identify the specific needs of areas struggling with demographic challenges and envisage sizeable investments to support citizens living in such areas in the Partnership Agreement and the programmes.

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