The opinion examines what has become a key sector in the Euromed region. The uprisings in the Euromed region, besides putting the spotlight on the abuses of autocratic dictators, have also drawn attention to the urgent need for economic and social development, especially in rural areas. Food insecurity and high food prices are set to remain a problem in the region.
Key observations and recommendations in the opinion include:
- economic growth cannot be achieved in isolation from a process of democratisation and respect for fundamental rights around the region. In order to bring growth to the people, it is not enough to open up trade: radical structural reform is needed,
- the European Union must correct past errors and strive to prevent a potential Mediterranean free trade area generating a highly unequal distribution of wealth in the rural areas of the Mediterranean,
- differentiated sector-based strategies should be supported at local, regional and national level,
- a diversification of the economy of rural areas is needed. This can be achieved by introducing new sources of wealth under a transparent legal framework that guarantees social rights for workers and legal certainty for investors,
- this strategy must be based on three pillars: training, technology and innovation, geared to ensuring quality, added value and improved marketing.
- the greatest challenge is to bring training into line with the changing needs of the rural labour market. Specialist training centres in rural areas must provide a boost for job creation, self-employment and closer coordination between the public and private sectors,
- traditional sectors such as tourism and agriculture must be reshaped so that the local population can benefit in full from their development. It is also essential to look into the possibilities of new energy or environmental sectors in the rural environment.
- initiatives based on collective thinking, as in the case of the social economy, should be encouraged,
- the EESC attaches priority to specific policies that help young people and women in rural areas enter the labour market,
- when framing, implementing and monitoring rural employment strategies, it is crucial that the various authorities involve civil society organisations. Not only north-south but also south-south cooperation should accordingly be facilitated.