On the invitation of Staffan Nilsson, a former president of the EESC (currently Co-President of the Swedish Rural Parliament, a civil society movement), Istvan Komoroczki, a member of the Employers’ Group and EESC sections NAT and REX, attended the three day meeting in Örnsköldsvik, 440 km north of Stockholm. This event, organised every second year, coincided with the start of the election campaign and so all Swedish political party leaders – facing elections on September 9, 2018 – gladly accepted a call to express their views about the need to develop areas of the Swedish country-side and the ways and means of doing so. A brief report by Istvan Komoroczki will follow.
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The European Year of Cultural Heritage is an excellent opportunity to understand how Europe’s rural cultural heritage is a prized asset which needs to be showcased alongside our urban heritage. The EESC opinion on the "Contribution of Europe’s Rural Areas to the 2018 Year of Cultural Heritage" will consider what measures are necessary to ensure sustainability of landscapes, habitats, species and human imprints. It will look at how to ensure initiatives that will add today's creativity to our heritage and improve co-operation between the rural and the urban, not least through promoting rural cultural tourism. It will also explore how innovation and digitalisation can contribute to capturing and promoting this heritage for all citizens and communities within and beyond Europe.
EESC calls for flexible and effective support programmes from the Commission and Member States
On 9 November 2016 the EESC and CoR organised a conference on balanced territorial development entitled "Cork+20: leaving rural areas behind is no longer an option". At stake was the European Commission's new rural development strategy, which would normally have to be inspired by the new Cork 2.0 Declaration that has been co-signed by stakeholders at the Cork conference on 5-6 September 2016.
Now is the time to put the Cork 2.0 Declaration into action.
The EESC opinion will be the organized civil society's contribution to the follow-up of the Conference. At the public hearing on 3 May we will discuss concrete actions for implementing the measures of the declaration. The trend towards a systematic prioritarization of urban areas across the whole set of EU sectoral policies must be reversed!
The EESC "Smart Islands" project is based on the own-initiative of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on Smart islands TEN/558.
Rural development is a horizontal issue that affects practically all policy areas.
The EESC welcomes the Cork 2.0 Declaration that offers strong ongoing support for a rural policy at EU level. The EESC sees itself as a natural partner when it comes to implementing the declaration, and requests that the Commission continue producing progress reports on said implementation.
Rural regions in the EU are not homogeneous and situations vary between and within Member States. These differences mean there is a need for focus and a strategic approach when using available EU funds. This must be based most importantly on initiatives from those living in rural areas.
The Commission recently published a Communication on a Renewed Partnership with the ACP Group of countries. ACP-EU relations are currently governed by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement that will expire in 2020, therefore the Commission has published recommendations on what the future structure should be. Last year the EESC already drafted a general opinion on the post-Cotonou framework; this new opinion will have to answer specifically to the Commission's communication.
The EESC hearing on 14 February 2017 was an opportunity for all people who were interested in rural issues to meet, present work in progress and exchange ideas and knowledge – and get inspired by examples of successful projects and initiatives in other rural communities. Together we thought of better ways to empower the rural communities to play their full part in addressing vital policy areas such as food security, renewable energy, environmental protection and job creation.