Devon (UK), 20 Otober 2005
In their final declaration, the 150 participants to the Assembly of European Regions’ (AER) Conference on ‘Promoting competitive regions: what role for rural areas in the Lisbon strategy’ today in Devon County Council (UK), stated that “rural areas represent an important part of the new EU territory and are therefore a key factor of cohesion and competitiveness. The active participation of rural areas in the Lisbon process and their harmonious development with suburban and urban areas is an essential condition for the achievement of economic, social and territorial cohesion in Europe.” More than 50 regions and 15 national and European Institutions, as well as experts and associations, were represented.
Regarding this statement, Håkan Sandgren, Vice-President of the AER ‘Regional Policies’ Committee and County Councillor of Jönköping (S) underlined: “We view the creation of a new single fund for rural development (EAFRD) as a positive step. However the European Commission’s proposed strategic guidelines for rural development lack ambition. Whilst it is indispensable to acknowledge that there is a necessary complementarity between the agricultural and the rural development pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy, the absence of a truly integrated strategy for rural areas is regrettable. Accessibility of transport, education, health and administrative services, the development of economic activities such as rural tourism and small and medium enterprises, as well as the greater production of renewable energy crops are also key factors for rural development.”
The EU’s rural development policy should be able to adapt to the various regional circumstances, and should therefore remain a framework based on the principles of subsidiarity and partnership. The Regions, have a great deal of expertise in the field of rural development and are therefore best-placed to understand the needs of their territory.
Last but not least, the AER insists on the urgent need to adopt the EU budget for 2007-2013. “We call upon the national and European authorities to accept their responsibilities, by voting in a substantial budget for the EU rural development policy post-2006, following the proposals of the European Commission” concluded Brian Greenslade, Leader of the Devon County Council and Vice-President Treasurer of the AER. Councillor Greenslade went on to say: ‘This Conference provided an excellent opportunity to share experiences about rural matters so important to us in Devon. Affordable housing, market towns, sustainability, keeping young people in the countryside were discussed, all issues very familiar to us in Devon.’
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