The COVID-19 pandemic has undermined the economic dynamics of our continent and without a closer connection between urban and rural areas, we will become even more vulnerable to future crises, warned Dacian Cioloș, President of Renew Europe on 7 July, chairing a high level Webinar on a rural vision for Europe with the participation of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EIB President Werner Hoyer, S&D Leader Iratxe Garcia-Perez and representatives of Rural Networks.
Dacian Cioloș said:
“We see that rurality, agriculture and food are back at the top of the agenda. If we want to win the fight against climate change, we need to see rural areas as a solution. If we want a strong foundation for the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy, rural areas have the capacity not only to reduce carbon emissions, but also transform the carbon challenges into solutions. I am convinced that rural thinking will allow us to not only find the path to sustainable development but also to real prosperity, to the benefit of the entire EU.”
“It is unthinkable to imagine a future where rural and urban areas stand divided. A future where city folk and rural communities do not coexist. I refuse to believe that this trend is inevitable. But this requires a new paradigm shift in the way we organise our life. The digital agenda can be a massive lever to regenerate rural areas and encourage relocation of citizens by providing transport infrastructure, easy access to high-speed internet, and medical and educational infrastructure as well as performant food systems. It is vital that we can offer the same services and standards in both urban and rural areas and have rural areas fully connected.”
Cioloș concluded by saying that the challenge of integrating rural communities into our European political project will be one of the strongest indicators with which we will measure our success or failures to relaunch our economy and rebuild our lives following this pandemic.
Dacian Cioloș also welcomed the announcement by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the webinar of the decision of the Commission to launch at EU level a wide public consultation on the future of rural areas. This participatory process will be a great opportunity for rural communities all across our continent to have their say. The COVID-19 pandemic has called into question our direction and we need to see rural as a solution.