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.
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.