CoR members: Future of European Union rural areas uncertain after recent EU budget cuts

30-7-2013 — /EuropaWire/ — Europe’s rural areas are home to 60% of the entire EU population and provide 56% of all jobs across the Union. Yet shortly after the agreement on the new Common Agricultural Policy, its future seems uncertain unless more financial investment is committed and Europe’s local authorities are more involved. This was the main message raised by members of the Committee of the Region’s Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) during an event held in Kaunas, Lithuania. The members, who were joined by Mindaugas Kuklierius, Lithuanian Deputy Minister for Agriculture, also discussed ways on how to maximise financial resources following the cut to the EU budget for rural development after 2014.

The event, which was organised at the invitation of Andrius Kupčinskas (LT/EPP), Mayor of Kaunas and Member of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), considered the many challenges facing rural areas. Local and regional politicians considered the impact a reduced EU budget from 2014-2020 will have on rural areas, including the decision to reduce financial resources for rural development. Discussions centred around two main issues: firstly finding new funding sources for rural development, and secondly exchanging good practice in order to make the most from of EU structural funds. Opening the conference, René Souchon (FR/PES), Chairman of the NAT Commission Resources and President of the Auvergne Region in France, stated that, “The challenges faced by rural areas call for the implementation of a comprehensive and balanced set of measures to promote smart, sustainable but also inclusive growth.”

CoR member Jerzy Zająkała (PL/EA), Mayor of Łubianka in Poland, presented his draft report on rural development which was approved during the NAT Commission. It points out that EU investment for rural areas had been reduced from € 95.7bn from 2007-2013 to below € 85bn for the next programming period. Mr. Zająkała said: “In the 2014-2020 financial perspective, the amount of funding allocated to rural development has been significantly cut back to below € 85bn, and the figure may be reduced even further in view of the plans to give Member States the right to transfer up to 15 % of resources from the second to the first pillar of the CAP and the expansion of the CAP second pillar funding. There is more to growth in rural areas than just farming and the EU needs to engage itself more to provide for a comprehensive development and continuity of rural areas all over the continent. Rural areas need to have priority across EU funding streams.”

The report also argues that while the EU’s Common Strategic Framework and partnership agreements can help foster integration, they are still insufficient for ensuring the truly sustainable development of rural areas. It suggests that additional funding could be provided by managing authorities through projects covered by the Common Provisions Regulation Funds (i.e. ERDF, ESF and EMFF). It also contends that regional and territorial cooperation is crucial to protect rural areas, and calls for partnership agreements to involve local and regional authorities. The draft report is due to be adopted at the Committee of the Regions’ plenary session in October later this year.

Mindaugas Kuklierius, Lithuanian Deputy Minister for Agriculture, also spoke, presenting Lithuania’s rural development programme. He highlighted that “Regional development will be sustainable only if efforts will be made on all levels taking into the consideration the particularities of each territory. The process of the regional development shall be multi-faceted ensuring effective usage of the new financial possibilities by regions and municipalities.”

During the NAT Commission meeting Paul O’Donoghue (IE/ALDE), Member of the Kerry County Council, also had his draft opinion on “Directive for Martime Spatial and Integrated Coastal Management” approved. It is expected to be presented for adoption during the CoRs’ October plenary.

For more information, please contact:

David French
Tel: +32 2 282 2535


Andrius Kupčinskas/Vilma Daugaliene/René Souchon

Andrius Kupčinskas/Vilma
Daugaliene/René Souchon

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