Long-term vision for rural areas: Europeans share their views on rural areas
Improved infrastructure, especially in terms of public transport, is among the most pressing needs for rural areas. Farming is seen as the sector contributing the most to rural areas. These are some of the key outcomes of the online public consultation on the Long-term vision for rural areas held between 7 September and 30 November 2020.
The public consultation aimed at gathering input from European citizens and stakeholders to assess what the long-term vision on rural areas should focus on. A total of 2,326 respondents from all EU Member States participated in the public consultation, providing their views on rural areas today, aspirations for the future of rural areas as well as involvement of citizens in decision making and the vision itself.
Over 50% of respondents stated that infrastructure is the most pressing need for rural areas. Access to basic services and amenities, such as water and electricity as well as banks and post offices, was also cited as an urgent need for 43% of respondents.
Over the next 20 years, respondents believe that the attractiveness of rural areas will largely depend on the availability of digital connectivity (93%), of basic services and e-services (94%) and on improving the climate and environmental performance of farming (92%).
When asked if people felt left behind by society, 39% of respondents responded positively. This share increases for participants involved in farming (45%), living in rural areas (41%) and living in remote rural areas (56%). The most important reason cited for this is the deteriorated infrastructure and services (61%).
In terms of decision-making, 83% of participants believe that decisions taken at local level impact the lives of rural people while only one quarter (27%) consider that particular attention is given to rural areas in public policy design.
The findings of the public consultation will be presented at the rural vision week, hosted by the European network for rural development (ENRD) between 22 and 26 March 2021.
The EU’s rural areas suffer from a number of common challenges ranging from lower connectivity and lack of services to lower employment. Conscious of these challenges, the Commission will publish a communication on a long-term vision for rural areas under its ‘A new push for European democracy’ priority. The aim of the communication is to draw attention to the specific needs of rural areas and launch a debate between the European Commission, Parliament and the Council as well as local levels of government. It will also commit to new actions aiming at improving the coordination of policies affecting rural areas.
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