Improving infrastructure, especially in terms of public transport, is one of the most pressing needs in rural areas.
Agriculture is considered to be the sector that contributes the most to rural areas. These are some of the main results of the online public consultation on the long-term vision for rural areas, which took place from September 7 to November 30, 2020.
The public consultation aimed to gather input from European citizens and stakeholders in order to assess what the long-term vision for rural areas should focus on. A total of 2,326 respondents from all EU Member States participated in the public consultation, giving their views on rural areas today, their aspirations for the future of rural areas as well as the involvement of citizens in decision-making and the vision itself.
Over 50% of respondents said infrastructure is the most pressing need in 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 by 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%), basic and online services (94%) and improvement climatic and environmental performance of agriculture (92%).
When asked whether people feel left out by society, 39% of those surveyed answered positively. This proportion increases for participants involved in agriculture (45%), living in rural areas (41%) and living in remote rural areas (56%). The most important reason cited is the deterioration of infrastructure and services (61%).
In terms of decision-making, 83% of participants believe that decisions taken at the local level have an impact on the life of rural populations, while only a quarter (27%) consider that special attention is given to rural areas in the development of public policies.
The results of the public consultation will be presented during Rural Vision Week, organized by the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) from March 22 to 26, 2021.
Rural areas in the EU suffer from a number of common problems, ranging from reduced connectivity to a lack of services to declining employment. Aware of these challenges, the Commission will publish a communication on a long-term vision for rural areas as part of its priority “A new impetus for European democracy”. The aim of this communication is to draw attention to the specific needs of rural areas and to launch a debate between the European Commission, the Parliament and the Council as well as the local levels of government. It will also initiate new actions aimed at improving the coordination of policies affecting rural areas.