On 26-27 September, the scenic town of Sigüenza, central Spain, hosted the High-Level Rural Policy Forum, bringing together 200 key EU experts, decision-makers, practitioners, and stakeholders. Organized by the European Commission, the Spanish EU Presidency, and the Rural Pact Support Office, this event was a significant step towards shaping the future of EU rural and cohesion policies post-2027.
Vision and objectives
The European Commission, in collaboration with the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU, aimed to adopt Council conclusions on the long-term vision for EU rural areas by the end of 2023. This vision builds upon lessons learned from the initial two years of rural vision implementation, with a focus on assessing actions under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and cohesion policy for 2021-2027. Spanish Agricultural Minister Luis Planas affirmed the intention to reach a consensus with other Member States during the November General Affairs Council, a crucial step for the post-2027 Common Agricultural Policy, including Rural Development and EU Regional Policy.
Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski highlighted significant progress in implementing 30 actions outlined in the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas over just two years. This progress underscores the commitment to allocate 24 billion euros directly to rural communities through CAP strategic plans, with the Rural Pact as a crucial instrument. Regional Policy Commissioner Elisa Ferreira emphasized the pivotal role of EU Cohesion Policy in delivering the Rural Pact and addressing issues like rural depopulation.
Despite COVID-19 delays, a mid-term review of the 2021-2027 EU budget is ongoing, gaining urgency with the 2024 European elections and the new Commission mandate. At Sigüenza, officials from DG AGRI and DG REGIO, Mario Milouchev and Wallis Goelen, shared initial assessment findings. DG AGRI recently published a study revealing that 8% of expenditure in CAP Strategic Plans is directed toward non-farming rural development. President Von der Leyen’s announcement of a strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU highlights the food production-nature protection relationship. Mr. Milouchev confirmed that a set of proposals for the future of CAP will be unveiled in early 2024.
EU Cohesion Policy Debate
The future of EU Cohesion Policy is intensively debated, prompted by Next Generation EU’s response to COVID-19. A High-Level Group will report by the end of 2023, with proposals from the EU Committee of the Regions and EESC. Wallis Goelen highlighted the risk of centralization in post-2027 EU funding, potentially weakening local development and partnerships. The current 16% allocation for rural areas is provisional, with expectations of a higher total for 2021-2027. National and regional ministers Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development experts, European Committee of the Regions and European Economic and Social Committee, Rapporteurs, Member of the European Parliament and rural networks gathered in Sigüenza, emphasizing the need for improved coordination among EU and national funds, proposing a Local Capacity Support Action, and discussing the possibility of a dedicated fund for the Rural Pact. These discussions illustrate the evolving debate on the future of rural Europe.
SHERPA project’s contribution
The SHERPA project was also represented by one of our partners, Tristan Berchoux from CIHEAM Montpellier. Our partner took part in the session titled “Data and Evidence for Policy Making,” where he delivered a presentation on “Collecting and Analysing Data for Rural Policies: Science-Society-Policy Interfaces.” During this session, he made references to the SHERPA and GRANULAR projects.
You can watch the whole conference on their YouTube channel.