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.
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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.
This opinion considers the root causes, the negative impact on rural areas and highlights best initiatives to re-energise communities through the RDP and other support measures.
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 EESC welcomes the Communication from the Commission confirming the importance of Internet connectivity for the Digital Single Market and the need for Europe to deploy now the networks for its digital future.
- The EESC notes that the Strategic Objectives for 2025 are ambitious but realistic, although they are largely dependent on national funding (private and public). There is a particular need for public investments to cover all remotes areas and guarantee minimum digital access for the vulnerable members of our society.
- The EESC agrees with the proposal to introduce a voucher system for small communities and SMEs and supports the free "WIFI4EU" initiative for all Europeans in public places, public administrations, libraries and hospitals as well as outdoor spaces even. It recommends following eIDAS digital identity, which offers guarantees for data protection and public security against.
In the past few years, civil society has been increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impact of food production and consumption. At the request of the Dutch EU Presidency, the EESC is preparing an exploratory opinion on how to achieve sustainable food systems in a resource-constrained world. The opinion takes a holistic and comprehensive approach, looking at the interdependence of food production and consumption as well as fostering inter-sectoral cooperation.