European rural areas need a boost

Better rural development is possible, and local people are willing to deliver, but they need support. EU and national authorities need to empower villages and small towns. With its opinion on Villages and small towns as catalysts for rural development, adopted at its October plenary session, the EESC wants to contribute to a revitalisation of Europe's rural areas.

"It is the responsibility of the EU and its Members States to deliver the impetus for rural development. We must make our countryside a more attractive place to live", says rapporteur Tom Jones (Various interests, UK).

Economic and social development require adequate infrastructure, including fast broadband services and a modern transport network. "This includes not just the provision of a smart transport network for road and rail, but also smart and efficient use of the transport network", Mr Jones explained. The EESC strongly supports the European Commission's Smart Villages Initiative as a first step in the right direction.

Cooperation between cities, towns and rural areas in agri-tourism and rural tourism, health-related activities, and the food supply chain, would benefit the general public.

Sustainable rural development will only succeed with the assent of local people, who must be involved in decision-making. "We need to encourage people, particularly young people, give them a voice and support their ideas", underlines Mr Jones. (sma)