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Fairs and other events

ENRD at the Notre-Europe & Sol et Civilisation Seminar: The EU and its rural areas: a cumbersome legacy in the 21st century?
13 December 2013, Brussels, Belgium


The seminar was organised by the Notre Europe - Jacques Delors Institute and Sol & Civilisation at the  Committee of the Regions. The main objective was to discuss the potential contribution of rural areas to strategies to exit the financial crisis and as the role of such areas in the creation of values for the 21st Century.

Many international speakers were invited including: Dacian Cioloş, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development; Wladislaw Piskorz, Head of Unit, DG REGIO; Mark Shucksmith, University of Newcastle, United Kingdom; Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Committee of the Regions member; Guy Baudelle, University of Rennes, France; and many more.

The discussion was organised around two topics:

  1. Is the potential of rural areas exploited in the plans to exit the crisis?
  2. How can the EU take advantage of the rural areas as creators of value(s)?

 The rural population is facing some specific challenges (especially Central and Eastern Europe) regarding  emigration, skills conversion and the search for additional income.

Rural areas need to be considered as places of innovation and engines of social renewal and economic growth. It has been found, for example, that innovation can be greater in rural areas than in urban and that productivity gains can be more pronounced. Many challenges are faced by rural micro- and home-based businesses, notably poorer infrastructure, distant services, planning restrictions and labour shortages.

Completed in March 2011, the European Development Opportunities in Rural Areas (EDORA) project’s objective was to examine the process of differentiation in rural areas, in order to better understand how EU, national and regional policy can enable these areas to develop their specific potentials to achieve sustainable growth. It is also important in showing the bottom-up potential of rural economies, beyond agriculture and tourism. This recognition should be a cornerstone of rural development today.  

Main findings

Rural areas are a neglected wealth and are often overlooked as sources of growth. The new CAP gives more freedom to Member States but the challenge that is facing European agriculture in the 21st Century is one of limited resources.

Local responses are not enough since fiscal policy, globalisation and financial markets greatly influence local economies. The age of austerity is likely to mean reduced capacity in central and local government, and in the community and voluntary sector, alongside changes in the institutional framework. What impact will this have on networked rural development?

To create an attractive rural environment, specific regional policies are essential. Networks are also important to help rural businesses start and grow (i.e. Rural Growth Networks from north-eastern England).

Non-agricultural products (i.e. handicrafts) could be a real potential of growth for rural areas. A harmonised EU system could possibly add value to local products and traditional knowledge as well as related sectors, such as local tourism.