The first working session of the SHERPA EU MAP’s Coordination Group took place online on 8 October 2020. The EU Multi-Actor Platform (MAP) is contributing to the SHERPA Position paper on the ‘Long Term Vision for rural areas’, that will be published by the end of 2020.
The meeting was attended by the following experts from civil society, policy and research fields: Alexia Rouby (DG AGRI, European Commission), Eleftherios Stavropoulos (DG REGIO, European Commission), Hélène Moraut (European Committee of the Regions), Goran Šoster (Partnership for Rural Europe – PREPARE), Marion Eckardt (European LEADER Association for Rural Development – ELARD), Paul Soto (European Network for Rural Development – ENRD), David Miller and Katerine Irvine (The James Hutton Institute), Staffan Nilsson (European Economic and Social Committee), Olivier Chartier and Elodie Salle (Ecorys); Enrique Nieto and Lucia Garrido (AEIDL) attended as observers and as communication experts of the EU MAP. Participants do not represent their organisations/institutions but have been invited as individual experts.
During the session, members of the Coordination Group were presented with some of the outcomes of the work developed by the 20 Regional Multi-actor Platforms, the SHERPA Discussion Paper on the Long-Term Vision, and the overview of a sample of foresight exercises carried out at EU level.
The European experts exchanged first views on the trends, challenges and opportunities for rural areas in 2040, identified by the Regional MAPs. Demography, climate change, economic services, and the shift in production and diversification of the rural economy were highlighted as the main areas affecting rural territories.
The EU MAP also discussed how a desirable future for rural areas would look like, and which are the key ingredients to achieve it. A desirable future would be one where people can have a high quality of life regardless of where they live. For that, rural areas should be autonomous, connected and resilient by 2040, and offer economic opportunities and quality jobs in different sectors and not just agro-food; access to services (such as education, mobility, health. etc.). Nature should be used to produce food and fair private and public goods and services (such as tourism, recreation, health…), while the environment is respected. Finally, the vital importance of rural territories to society as a whole must be recognised, its image and perception among unban populations and decision-makers should be improved.
To achieve this desirable future, experts agreed that a bottom-up approach, enhanced rural-urban links, integrated tailor-made local strategies alongside investments in adequate infrastructure, and service provision are needed to overcome the feeling that rural areas are being “left behind”. More opportunities to rural people to participate in decisions about their future, empowerment to innovative for change and mechanisms to assess the impact of legislation on rural areas prior to their adoption (Rural Proofing) was also deemed important.
Local authorities and stakeholders should play a key role, as Europe’s rural areas are very heterogeneous, in economic and territorial terms, as well as with regard to cultures and spirit of community, which are very different from one region to another.
The EU MAP will meet again by the end of November, to discuss further the SHERPA Position Paper.