In June 2020, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) launched a consultation on the evaluation of the CAP impact on the territorial development of rural areas, aiming to feed into the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas. The consultation was addressed to the Regional Hubs Network (RegHub) and its findings have been compiled into the network’s fifth implementation report.
The consultation looked into the extent to which three CAP Regulations have contributed to mitigate and meet the challenges that rural areas have faced over the 2014-2020 programming period: 1) direct payments, 2) common organisation of the markets (CMO) in agricultural products, and 3) support for rural development.
Six main challenges were addressed in the consultation: 1) low growth; (2) underemployment; (3) poor generational renewal; (4) sub-optimal infrastructure and services; (5) territorial imbalances; and (6) social inclusion and poverty. Moreover, the hubs were asked, which measures they consider the most effective ones to address them.
A majority of Regional Hubs reported negative developments of their rural areas and agriculture sectors over the given period. Among the common trends identified were:
- depopulation of rural areas;
- lack of public services;
- decreasing number of farms, an increasing average size of farms, an increasing average age of farmers and a decreasing average income of farmers, relative to the overall development of incomes; and
- lack of generational change in farming.
Other challenges considered important by the hubs were: (i) climate change; (ii) insufficient “clean” mobility for people living in rural areas; (iii) a lack of digitalisation and access to technology; (iv) a lack of formation and training centres; (v) unfair competition caused by imported products, which do not achieve local standards but are sold at lower costs and (vi) a need to take into account environmental aspects such as soil quality, water quality and supply, landscape quality, and biodiversity.
Among the many challenges identified for the future CAP, a better territorial balance between rural and urban areas is, of course, a central concern for the CoR.
The current measures in their entirety appear unsuited to address the socio-economic challenges that rural areas are facing. This might be largely due to the fact that the CAP has initially not been designed to meet socio-economic challenges of rural areas, but rather to support the agricultural sector in the wake of mayor economic structural changes. Many of the measures that could potentially mitigate the above-mentioned challenges, have been characterised by a lack of targeting, insufficient support volumes, exhaustive administrative burden and thus a low level of cost-effectiveness.
On a global scale, the hubs considered rather low the level of coherence and complementarity of the CAP with other EU policies.
The main proposals of the hubs for improving the CAP’s impact on territorial development of rural areas are the following:
- support generational renewal is key to the future of European agriculture;
- simplify both procedures and criteria for measures’ implementation;
- harmonise the Structural Funds’ operating rules to facilitate rural development programming and management;
- there is a higher potential for a regional programming of Rural Development to target territorial specificities and involve local stakeholders;
- evaluate the CAP at the sub-regional level;
- improve coherence and complementarity of CAP instruments and measures with other EU policies; and
- limit potential threats both to the competitiveness of local products and to food quality and safety caused by international trade agreements not coherent enough with CAP objectives.
If you are further interested on other contributions to EU’s initiative on the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas (LTVRA), you can find a wealth of knowledge and experience in our publications, such as the SHERPA Position Paper on LTVRA or the 20 Multi-Actor Platforms Position Papers on the same topic.