Bari, Puglia (I), 18 May 2004
120 people, among whom Regional Ministers for agriculture and rural development, political authorities as well as academic and regional experts have met in Bari, Puglia-I, under the aegis of the Assembly of European Regions, in order to discuss the problems of rural areas and to identify the most suitable instruments to solve them. Some particularly representative associations, such as “Ruralité, Environnement Développement”, “Friends of the Earth” and Greenpeace were associated to these debates, whose main conclusions are:
Rural areas, as factors of competitiveness and economic, social and territorial cohesion
Rural areas having a strategic importance, they can no longer be treated according to a mere logic of assistance, but have to be provided with appropriate services, such as transport, access to education, health care, the development of rural tourism and of small and medium enterprises.
Regions have a major role to play to encourage rural development. Their action requires suitable financial instruments and an important margin for public investment. The competition rules and the state aid regime must therefore be implemented in a more flexible way.
Furthermore, a major support should be ensured in the framework of the new cohesion policy and of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). “The new convergence and competitiveness objectives should explicitly include priorities of rural development and encourage a better coordination between both urban and rural dimensions. In addition, the implementation of the new CAP criteria must respect the principle of subsidiarity and encourage, consequently, the direct management of the aid by the regions. A better partnership between the Regions, farmers and sectoral associations is thus indispensable”, Roberto Ruocco, Regional Minister for General Affairs and Local Authorities in Puglia Region, underlined.
The preservation of traditional agricultural products must become a priority for the European policy of rural development
The Regions have the right to refuse the introduction of genetically modified products (GMO) in their agriculture and to define these areas GMO-free. Their farmers should be granted an appropriate financial support in order to guarantee the traceability of their products. “We regret the lack of real consultation in the matter and we notice that GMOs are introduced while a majority of European citizens are opposed to it and on the basis on controls that are not always sufficient. For all these reasons, the AER launches an European Information and Action Campaign to promote the preservation of regional traditional agricultural products.” Brian Greenslade, Chairman of the AER Committee on “Regional Development”, concluded.
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