EU long-term vision for rural areas: Pre-legislative synthesis of national, regional and local positions on the European Commission's initiative

Briefing 29-06-2021

This Briefing forms part of an EPRS series offering syntheses of the pre-legislative state of play and consultation on key European Commission priorities during the current five-year term. It summarises the state of affairs in the relevant policy field, examines how existing policy is working on the ground, and, where possible, identifies best practice and ideas for the future on the part of governmental organisations at all levels of the EU system of multilevel governance. EPRS analysis of the positions of partner governmental organisations at EU, national, regional and local levels suggests that these public authorities would like the following main considerations to be reflected in discussions on the forthcoming Commission communication on the long-term vision for rural areas: • The EU level recognises that rural areas represent the fabric of European society. There is a growing concern at the EU level that some citizens living in remote rural areas feel 'left behind'. • Local and regional authorities point out that, if the rural agenda is to be successful, it cannot be based on a one-size-fits-all approach, but needs to be tailored to territories' specificities. This applies, for instance, to overcoming demographic challenges. • When it comes to digitalisation and mobility, all levels of governance see the provision of infrastructure as a necessary – but not sufficient – condition for progress. There is a consensus on the importance of bottom-up participation of local communities to meet local needs, which is behind the 'smart village' concept. • Governmental organisations at all levels of governance see environment protection and action against climate change as a pre-condition for growth. There is a clear call to modernise the farming sector, coupled with the need to diversify the rural economy as whole. According to public bodies at local, regional and national levels, the experience with the Covid-19 pandemic has proven that there are potential opportunities for future development of rural areas, starting with jobs that can be carried-out remotely. • Regional and local administrations call for EU and national administrative procedures to be made less cumbersome and for different types of funds to be streamlined and combined, applying a 'multi-fund' approach. Finally, the evidence gathered points to additional funding opportunities for rural areas. These include concrete cases of private initiatives, national intervention when the provision of a public good is not commercially viable, and State aid and tax credits, when appropriate.