Written by James McEldowney.
In June 2021, the European Commission published a communication setting out a long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas. The range of challenges facing such areas is acknowledged. They include issues relating to demographic change, such as the loss of population from remote rural areas, lower levels of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, poor access to services, and issues concerning connectivity. A lower proportion of households in rural regions have access to next generation broadband compared to the EU average. Tertiary education and basic digital skill levels are lower in rural areas and a significant gap exists between male and female employment rates. The share of young people aged 15 to 29 years neither in employment nor in education or training is higher in rural areas.
The response set out in the Commission’s communication includes proposals for a rural pact engaging actors at EU, national, regional and local levels to support the vision and an action plan to support stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas. A rural observatory will be established to improve data collection and analysis on the situation of rural areas. In support of its proposals, the Commission will put in place a rural proofing mechanism to assess the anticipated impact of major EU legislative initiatives on rural areas.
Offering an initial analysis of the communication and its implications for future policy for rural areas, this briefing examines the challenges and opportunities these areas face. It summarises the views and responses of stakeholders regarding the Commission’s long-term vision and the findings of the public consultation launched by the Commission in September 2020. Evidence is also presented on the levels of trust rural dwellers have in the different levels of governance. The key drivers that will shape rural areas between now and 2040 are identified from the findings of a foresight analysis undertaken by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which is included in the communication. Lastly, consideration is given to the experience of applying the rural proofing mechanism, including perspectives on its utility and application in practice.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Long-term vision for rural areas: European Commission communication‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.