Assembly of European Regions holds conference on the future of rural development policy and rural regions
Lillehammer, Oppland (N), 29 February 2008
As the European Commission reflects upon the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a conference gathering 59 regions from 20 countries across the wider Europe has called for greater recognition of rural regions in a modern Europe.
‘Rural regions cover more than 90% of the territory of the enlarged EU, and yet mainstream economic policy has historically favoured urban centres over rural communities. These regions are now facing some serious challenges that can only be overcome by introducing structural changes with the strong support of the EU and its member states,’Assembly of European Region’s (AER) Secretary-General Mr. Klaus Klipp said today.
Those challenges include the decline of emigration, an ageing population, lower skills-base and labour productivity, isolation, lack of infrastructure as well as difficulties in providing basic public services.
Hosted in Lillehammer by the AER in co-operation with the Oppland region of Norway, today’s conference adopted a set of concrete recommendations for future rural development policy.
Adopted by all 180 conference participants, the recommendations are based upon the principle that the rural dimension must be incorporated into all EU policies. The EU’s cohesion policy and rural development policy should be integrated into a single document, with greater priority given to the development of sustainable rural-urban partnerships.
The recommendations also call for more EU funding to be allocated for rural development, and particularly for projects supporting innovative services, infrastructures, New Communications and Information Technologies (NCIT), entrepreneurship and tourism.
Mr. Neil Parish, MEP and Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament,said: ‘I think the challenge of a reform of the CAP is to be able to move money from general support of agriculture to support for rural development, making sure that we can bring in practical policies that build up the rural environment and get the rural economy moving.’
Today’s conference also looked at how rural regions are using innovative approaches to regenerate and diversify their economies. In particular, regional politicians and officers learned about tourism opportunities, the phenomenon of second homes in rural areas, as well as the development of regional airports. A number of examples of best-practices from rural regions are included in Annex 1 of the conference recommendations (see link, above).
Other speakers at today’s conference included:
Mr. Søeren Kissmeyer-Nielsen, Head of Unit, responsible for rural development, Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission;
Dr. Josef Martinz, Minister for Agriculture, Carinthia (A);
Mr. Jean-Paul Denanot, President of Limousin (F);
Mr. Aksel Hagen, County Councillor, Oppland (N) and Chairman of AER working group on regional development;
Dr. Jiri Vagner, Charles University, Prague (CZ);
Dr. Manfred Perlik, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Institute for Spatial and Landscape Planning (CH).
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