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.
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.
Opinion on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)
In several Eastern and Southern EU countries there is a steady flow of young people leaving their hometowns to find work in distant cities. This is a worrisome trend. An ever-increasing global food demand will require in the near future that all agricultural surfaces be cultivated.
To abandon large production areas is a luxury that the EU cannot afford. In order to attach young workers to their rural territories, or to bring them back if they are already gone, the availability of good job opportunities is a necessary condition but not a sufficient one. Education and health services, ICT links, even cultural activities have to reach a minimum level that makes living in these places not only acceptable but indeed attractive.