On 15 and 16 June, more than 450 participants representing European, national and regional policy makers as well as local authorities, social and economic actors gathered for the first conference of the Rural Pact. They agreed on the governance of a Rural Pact and committed themselves to achieving the long-term vision for rural areas in the EU. Over the two days, participants and members of the Rural Pact community started making commitments to make EU rural areas stronger, more connected, resilient and prosperous by 2040.
The rural pact is one of the main initiatives to achieve the objectives of the long-term vision for rural areas in the EU, adopted by the European Commission in June 2021. The rural pact is a framework for cooperation between the authorities and actors concerned with rural territorial issues. development at European, national, regional and local level. Its objectives are to amplify rural voices and place them higher on the political agenda, to structure and enable collaboration and mutual learning, and to encourage and monitor voluntary commitments to action. Following the call made by Vice-President Šuica, Commissioner Wojciechowski and Commissioner Ferreira in December 2021 to express their support for the pact, more than 1,000 representatives of public authorities, civil society organisations, businesses and research, innovation and academic organizations have joined the rural pact community.
Conference participants who took part in the participatory workshops submitted more than 40 commitments building on those presented prior to the conference. These commitments address specific issues in communities and rural areas. According to the latest Eurobarometer on rural areas published in April 2021, the main needs of rural areas mentioned most frequently by respondents are transport infrastructure and connections (44%). This is followed by access to healthcare, childcare or elder care and availability of jobs/jobs/business opportunities, mentioned by 27%. A similar proportion (26%) mentions digital infrastructure. The commitments made reflect these priorities.
The European Commission will facilitate the setting up and work of the Rural Pact and help monitor progress in implementing the commitments made under its auspices. In addition, the Commission:
- Launch the EU Rural Observatory to provide more detailed data on economic and demographic trends in EU rural areas to inform rural development policy-making;
- Publish the toolkit on accessing EU funding opportunities for rural areas, both within and beyond the CAP and cohesion policy, to support local actors and promoters of projects and carry out integrated development strategies;
- Monitor how EU funds from the Common Agricultural Policy, Cohesion Policy, NextGenerationEU, Horizon Europe, Digital Europe, etc. are used to support rural areas in the period 2023-2027. The European Commission will also publish a report in 2024 with its reflection on the use of the funds in the following period;
- Provide rural proofing, including through territorial impact assessments of key relevant legislative initiatives;
- Interact with other institutions to keep rural areas on the agenda, in particular with successive Council Presidencies;
- Launch a website by the end of this year to have a single entry point to all rural vision activities, including the rural revitalization platform.
More than 60 billion euros are available for rural development under the common agricultural policy for the period 2023-2027. Under the new CAP, at least 35% of these funds will be allocated to measures supporting local development, climate, biodiversity, the environment and animal welfare.
More than 25% of EU cohesion policy investments for the period 2014-2020 have also contributed to keeping rural areas vibrant. Cohesion policy will continue to invest in rural areas through partnership agreements and operational programs in the new programming period. This will materialize in particular through the new cross-cutting political objective dedicated to sustainable and place-based territorial and local development: “Political objective 5 – A Europe closer to the citizens”.
Based on the agreement of the governance of the Rural Pact, concrete actions will follow. Membership of the Rural Pact Community is still open and pledges can still be submitted online.
Rural Pact conference webpage – presentations available next week
Rural Pact Community
Long-term vision for EU rural areas