Rural areas should be made more attractive for young people and businesses. This would improve the quality of life of all Europeans, allowing them to choose where they want to live and work. This was one of the key conclusions from the debate entitled Towards a holistic strategy on sustainable rural and urban development, held at the EESC on 8 March.

Europe's rural and urban areas are not developing evenly. It is critical to foster policies that curb this trend, ensure a fair and sustainable transition to a well-being economy in all areas and promote population rebalancing. In particular, rural areas, which play a critical role in economic and social cohesion, in regions' resilience, and in the contribution of countless services from various local ecosystems, including food production, should be made more attractive for young people and businesses.

Peter Schmidt, president of the EESC's Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment (NAT), said: "The post-COVID recovery offers the perfect opportunity to prepare strategies that ensure that no areas or their citizens are left behind in the just transition to a climate-neutral, sustainable and prosperous European Union."

"Now that the EU has approved a courageous recovery package, the gaps between the EU territories have to be taken into account when allocating the funds," argued EESC member Stefano Palmieri, president of the EESC's Section for Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion.

Deša Srsen, from the office of Commission vice-president Dubravka Šuica, emphasised:  "With the Long Term Rural Vision the Commission is preparing for adoption in June, our ambition is to create a new momentum for rural areas."

Josep Puxeu Rocamora, rapporteur for the EESC opinion on An integrated approach for the EU's rural areas, stressed that the integration of rural and vulnerable areas was very complex, because it touched on every single existing EU policy. "To develop these areas, we propose a 'territorial contract' which should be participatory, adapted to the characteristics of the territories and preserve their historical, cultural and natural heritage." (mr)