Brussels, 29 June 2023 – The European Commission is committed to addressing the long-term reduction of population in rural areas across Europe, particularly among working-age individuals (20-64 years old) and youth (less than 20 years old), as highlighted in a recent report by Eurostat. To combat this issue and revitalise rural communities, the European Commission is launching the rural revitalization platform—a comprehensive resource for rural communities, project holders, and local authorities to connect, collaborate, and access information. This is of particular interest for projects with an active community of partners and MAPs such as SHERPA. As expressed in Final Conference there is an appetite to continue with Science-Policy-Dialogue interchanges after the end of the Project.
The Platform provided an EU interface to allow for that exchange to continue. At the Rural Pact Policy Lab two Communities were launched, one of Smart Villages and another on Women in Rural Areas, coordinated by the GRASS CEILING project. You can join the pact and form a Community by joining here.
The Policy Action Lab, scheduled for 29 June 2023, marks the official launch of the rural revitalization platform. This event not only aims to introduce the platform but also provides an opportunity to build upon previous work and explore policies and actions that can foster development in rural areas affected by depopulation.
The declining population trend in many rural areas of Europe has far-reaching consequences, exacerbating socioeconomic disparities between urban and rural regions. The ENRD Rural Voices report of 2020 emphasized the urgent need for viable public infrastructures and services, diversified income sources, and decent job opportunities as essential factors in maintaining population levels in areas experiencing depopulation.
Recognizing the need for action, the ENRD Thematic Group on rural revitalization identified key enabling factors in 2021 to address depopulation effectively. It emphasized the importance of implementing an integrated rural policy framework that encompasses all policies and funds, as well as providing flexible support to local communities.
The long-term vision for EU’s rural areas, including the Rural Pact, aims to support the revitalization of depopulated rural areas, making them stronger, more connected, resilient, and prosperous by 2040. The rural revitalization platform is a significant step towards achieving this vision. It serves as a one-stop shop, facilitating collaboration and information exchange among rural communities, project holders, and local authorities.
The Policy Action Lab agenda includes various sessions designed to address different aspects of rural revitalization. The opening session will feature remarks by Colin Scicluna, Head of Cabinet of Dubravka Šuica, European Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, followed by an introduction to the event by the Rural Pact Support Office. Marie Lambert, Programme Assistant at the European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, will present the Rural Revitalization Platform. A stakeholders’ panel will discuss how stakeholders can utilize the platform effectively to combat rural depopulation.
The event will also focus on policy design, coordination, and integration, drawing from successful experiences in Spain, Finland, and Italy. Experts will share their insights and engage in discussions to improve the design and implementation of more focused and integrated policies. The second session will delve into local empowerment, capacity building, and innovation, exploring examples from different themes such as improving rural quality of life, boosting sustainable businesses, and testing new approaches to tackle rural depopulation. Recommendations on current and future policy approaches will be drawn from these discussions.
The Policy Action Lab will conclude with a final stakeholders’ panel, featuring contributions from Marc Bournisien de Valmont (OECD) and Serafin Pazos Vidal (AEIDL). Mario Milouchev, Director for CAP Strategic Plans II, Rural Areas and EU CAP Network at the European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, provided closing comments. The Commission will use this meeting conclusion and the Rural Pact Conference in Segovia on 26 September under the Spanish EU Presidency to prepare the November Council Conclusions and set out a set of proposals for post 2027 due in January 2024.
The European Commission invites all stakeholders, policymakers, and interested parties to join the Policy Action Lab and actively participate in the collective effort to tackle rural depopulation and ensure the vitality and sustainability of Europe’s rural areas. For more information about the Policy Action Lab and the rural revitalization platform, please visit the official event website.
Published by Serafin Pazos-Vidal