In the run up to the European elections, regions and international organisations call on the future Parliament and Commission to further take into account the new reality of rural areas.
Brussels, Bruxelles-Capitale (BE), 29 April 2014
The European Union (EU) is facing several key challenges and responding to these will prove to be a particularly complex and expensive process. Focus is drawn today towards increasing effectiveness by using factors such as competitiveness, urban areas and innovation. Other targets, primarily rural areas, are being left out when in reality they are brimming with potential.
Gathering 70 participants, the RUR@CT Benchmarking Seminar allowed the Assembly of European Regions (AER) and the European Countryside Movement (ECM) to join forces in order to convince European stakeholders and the EU of the importance of restoring rurality to its rightful place, as one of the priorities.
Rural areas contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy
“Encompassing 59% of Europe’s population and 56% of EU’s employment, the role that rural and peri-urban areas play within the completion of the Europe 2020 Strategy is undeniable. These areas produce wealth and added value, yet their full potential remains unexploited. The vitality and the consideration of these territories as poles of development and innovation is key to a sustainable growth and a well balanced territorial development”, underlined Gerard Peltre, ECM President. “This is why it is crucial that MEPs’ of the new Parliament take up this issue through a white paper on territorial realities in the European Union and the establishment of an intergroup devoted to the development of the rural territories, including peri-urban areas”, he stated.
Rural and urban go hand in hand
In order for the objectives of economic, social and territorial cohesion to be met, the European policy approach cannot solely focus on a system of metropoles. Not denying the importance of metropolitan areas, the unique spatial quality of Europe must be the connection between urban and rural areas. “As highlighted in the AER ‘Denanot Report on Rurality’, Rural and Peri-urban areas have a particular role in this relationship, given their importance in terms of local agriculture, landscape quality, environmental management, employment and social cohesion. These areas are much more than just agricultural or recreation zones.” said Doede Sijtsma from the Province of Gelderland (NL).
Rural areas: more than just agriculture
Rural Europe of today has evolved and its economy is diversified. Agriculture remains a vital economic and territorial activity, but the secondary and tertiary sectors take up a major role in terms of employment. The RUR@CT Benchmarking Seminar gave the floor to several regions, such as Wallonia (BE), Alba (RO) or Noord-Brabant (NL) to put forward concrete examples of this diversification. Noord-Brabant for example, is currently engaged in strengthening Quadruple Helix partnerships to enhance innovation in its regional countryside. “It is by exchanging experiences the one with the others that our rural territories will find a dynamic of economic, social and environmental growth. It is only through knowledge, exchange and transfer of good practices that we will stimulate the potential of rural areas: RUR@CT is the tool provided by AER to answer this challenge. Today, through RUR@CT, we are mobilised to make rurality win”. said Claude Tremouille, Vice-President of the Limousin Regional Council (FR). A wide range of success stories on innovative ways of unlocking the potential of rural areas highlighted the importance of interregional cooperation as a tool to build greater economic diversification in rural territories.
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