Introducing the New EU Rural Action Plan for Rural Development

Image showing farm to illustrate news article for the new EU Rural Action Plan for EU Rural Development

Rural areas serve as the bedrock of Europe, but they grapple with a number of challenges – and this is something the European Commission is aware of, and why it has released the EU Rural Action Plan this March. The challenges in question – dwindling populations, insufficient infrastructure, and constrained access to essential services and opportunities – led the European Comission to chart this multifaceted strategy aimed at ensuring the sustainability and adaptability of rural regions for future generations. Thus, this comprehensive document not only acknowledges the distinctive issues faced by rural communities but also outlines a roadmap for their enduring growth and prosperity.

Buidling Upon the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Cohesion Policy

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a cornerstone of the European Union’s efforts to support rural development. Through various initiatives and funding programs, CAP aims to promote sustainable agriculture, preserve natural resources, and boost rural economies. These efforts include measures to enhance competitiveness, invest in rural infrastructure, and support diversification in rural areas. By fostering innovation and collaboration, CAP plays a vital role in rural development ensuring the vitality and resilience of Europe’s rural communities.

The Cohesion Policy works hand in hand with CAP, forming a crucial part of EU strategy to diminish economic and social gaps between regions while fostering equitable growth. This policy entails directing funds towards bolstering investments across multiple sectors such as infrastructure, education, and employment, with a special focus on less developed areas.

Among the key policies interwoven into the EU Rural Action Plan are precisely these two – the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Cohesion Policy.

A Look Into the EU Rural Action Plan

The EU Rural Action Plan, also dubbed The European Commission’s Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, represents a comprehensive strategic framework crafted to address the specific hurdles faced by rural communities within the European Union. Under this framework, a variety of policies, programs, and initiatives are orchestrated to cultivate sustainable rural development and elevate the standard of living across rural regions.

While the EU Rural Action Plan sets out ambitious objectives, its successful implementation relies on effective coordination, adequate funding, and sustained commitment from all stakeholders. Through various funding mechanisms such as the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF), the EU provides financial support to Member States to implement rural development initiatives.

The EU Rural Action Plan is not a one-size-fits-all solution; rather, it allows for flexibility and tailoring to the specific needs and priorities of each rural region. By fostering a bottom-up approach that empowers local communities to take ownership of their development strategies, the EU aims to ensure the long-term sustainability and resilience of rural Europe.

Rural Development

Main Pillars of the EU Rural Action Plan

The EU’s action plan for rural development covers a range of strategic objectives designed to address the diverse needs of rural areas. The strategy intends to foster regional cohesion. More precisely, it itends to draw regions into closer alignment while attracting innovative businesses, as a result enhancing employment prospects and promoting skill development. Its objective is to enhance infrastructure, harness sustainable farming practices, and harmonize various EU policies toward shared objectives. Four main pillars of the rural vision:

1. Strengthening rural areas: This involves empowering communities and ensuring access to essential services, promoting social innovation, spatial planning, and engaging youth.
2. Enhancing connectivity in rural areas: Efforts focus on improving sustainable transportation and advancing digitalization through investments in infrastructure, technology, and skills development.
3. Building resilience in rural areas: Measures include bolstering environmental, climatic, and social resilience by preserving carbon in peatlands and wetlands, improving soil health, and enhancing opportunities for women and vulnerable populations.
4. Fostering prosperity in rural areas: Initiatives support the social economy, address the needs of young individuals, promote bioeconomy, and provide assistance to producer organizations and groups.

Shared Goals of Rural Communities and Stakeholders

The rural vision’s ten shared goals represent the collective aspirations of rural communities and stakeholders for EU rural areas by 2040. These goals emerged from extensive conversations with diverse rural residents and serve as the foundation for both the EU rural action plan and the rural pact.

  • Create attractive, harmoniously developed spaces that leverage unique potential to address the local effects of global challenges.
  • Foster engagement in multi-level governance, utilizing collaborative strategies tailored to specific locations and leveraging urban-rural interdependencies.
  • Ensure rural areas serve as providers of food security, economic opportunities, and high-quality goods and services for society while retaining a fair share of the value generated.
  • Cultivate dynamic communities focused on well-being, prosperity, and quality of life, promoting mutual support and inclusivity.
  • Foster inclusive communities that uphold inter-generational solidarity and equal opportunities for all residents.
  • Enhance and contribute to the objectives of the Green Deal, promoting sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity conservation.
  • Ensure full access to and benefit from digital innovation, promoting digital literacy and skill development for all residents.
  • Cultivate entrepreneurial, innovative, and skilled individuals who contribute to technological, ecological, and social progress.
  • Develop lively places with efficient, accessible, and affordable public and private services, tailored to local needs including cross-border services.
  • Celebrate and leverage the diversity of rural areas, capitalizing on unique assets, talents, and potential for sustainable development. 

How Farmtopia Contributes to Rural Development

As a supporter of rural development action, the Farmtopia project seeks to enhance rural development by implementing 18 Sustainable Innovation Pilots (SIPs). While 9 pilots are already predetermined, the remaining 9 will be selected through the project’s Open Call initiative, offering a flexible response to policy and technological changes. These SIPs focus primarily on specific crops and livestock lacking adequate Agricultural Decision Support Systems (ADSs), as well as significant regional crops. With a €900,000 budget, each chosen SIP will receive €100,000 to collaborate and trial smart solutions, utilizing Farmtopia’s modular software.

Looking Ahead

As Europe navigates the challenges of the 21st century, the vitality of its rural areas remains essential for achieving a balanced and prosperous society. The EU’s Action Plan for Rural Development represents a significant step towards unlocking the potential of rural Europe and building a more inclusive, sustainable future for all. By harnessing the creativity, ingenuity, and resilience of rural communities, we can overcome obstacles and embrace opportunities for growth and innovation, ensuring that no one is left behind in the journey towards progress.

For more about rural development topic read our blog post about rural entrepreneurship.


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