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Aragón’s commitment to revitalise its rural areas

BLOG – 15/07/2022
by Bárbara Soriano, Isabel Bardají and Carina Folkenson (CEIGRAM-UPM)

The preliminary bill on the revitalisation of rural areas in Aragón (Spain) was approved by the regional government in April 2022, based on three previous legislations at regional (Autonomous Community) level: i) Management Strategy Territory of Aragón (RD 202/2014); ii) Planning of the Territory of Aragón (Law 4/2009); and iii) Special Territorial Planning of Demographic Policy and against depopulation (RD 165/2017). At national level, the legislative precedent is the Law 45/2007, for the sustainable development of rural areas.

The underlying aim of this legal norm is twofold: 1) to establish the mechanisms of promotion, development and revitalisation of rural areas that allow guaranteeing the minimum basic and essential services to its population and enable effective equality of opportunities for rural population and adequate economic and social cohesion; 2) to establish the appropriate inter-institutional governance and public-private relationships when applying sectoral policies in rural areas to achieve a coordinated public action that takes into account the different territorial realities within the rural areas.

This preliminary bill is the result of a two-year participatory process started in March 2020 and organised throughout three main steps: Firstly, in March 2020, the diagnosis stage was conducted. Secondly, in September 2022 the participants were identified (public institutions, local (province/county) entities, universities, social and economic agents, professional associations, and Local Action Groups). Furthermore, participatory activities were launched, such as informative and knowledge sharing through public consultations to ensure the efficient involvement of participants. Related to the latter, three workshops were organised to discuss the content of the legislation. In addition, it opened the opportunity to participate in the finalisation of the document. Finally, the assessment of the public participation was published in March 2020.

One of the main novelties of the preliminary bill on rural revitalisation is the Rural Guarantee Mechanism (article 5), aimed at systematically reviewing and coordinating the sectorial and socio-economic development policies in rural areas, as well as their impact on rural areas. This mechanism will promote positive discrimination in rural areas, supported by the strategic subsidy plans and regulatory bases approved by the Government of Aragon. The Delegate Commission for Territorial Policy and the Observatory for Demographic and Population Revitalisation will follow-up the process to guarantee compliance of the Rural Guarantee Mechanism.

An additional novelty is the proposal of tax incentives differentiated according to the rural settlement classification (article 97). The delimitation and zoning of the Aragon municipalities and settlements to define tax incentives is detailed in article 28. There are five different groups that range from rural settlements in urban transition to those at extreme risk of depopulation. The tax incentives consist of allowances on income tax and direct deductions that will be higher for people living in the extreme risk of depopulation areas. In addition, funds are also allocated in these regions aimed at encouraging population to remain and/or come back to rural areas.

A new Territorial Management Programme for Social and Economic Revitalisation will be drawn up for the rural environment. It is based on the Special Directive on Demographic and Population Policy approved in 2007 in which 15 strategic areas were identified, for example economic activities and market labour, housing, mobility, governance, awareness and vulnerable groups (elder, women, youth, migrants).  For each of the strategic areas, a projection of the actions and projects will be defined considering the conditions of the rural settlement systems. Furthermore, the commitment for promoting entrepreneurship in rural areas is reinforced by defining new initiatives such as: i) the Network of Entrepreneurship Centres (Red ARCE) to coordinate business incubators; ii)  support the creation of co-working and incubators; iii) define the Generational Programme to favour the transmission and stability of intergenerational businesses; iv) the Digital Rural Academy to train entrepreneurs in  rural areas and Digital Bank of ideas and initiatives implemented in rural areas, and v) the creation of laboratories of rural innovation to reflect on innovative proposals and initiatives to be implemented in the territory.

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