Rural Europe: Our Contract with Rural Europe – A Five-Point Plan for Europe’s Heartlands

The EU is much more than just its cities. Beyond the confines of larger urban centres lies a rich tapestry of towns, villages and open countryside. These are the places whose traditions and resilience have helped define Europe’s way of life for centuries. They are Europe’s heartlands. The EU’s rural and exurban areas account for over 80% of its total area and are home to over 30% of its population. Yet across Europe these communities feel disconnected. They feel detached from an increasingly remote political process—one which, they believe, gives precedence to the priorities of urban decision-makers rather than to the needs of smaller, less vocal communities. In many sectors, particularly in agriculture, people believe that their way of life is threatened by an unending deluge of European and national level regulations. Many feel abandoned by traditional political parties and disorientated by the rapid pace of economic and social change. Europe needs a new approach to rural development because not every town needs to become a technology hub, nor every village a tourist hotspot. Our Contract with Rural Europe provides a Five-Point Plan for Europe’s Heartlands. First, the Green Deal must become a positive partnership for farmers. Second, rural citizens are equal citizens requiring the same connectivity and skills as those living in urban areas. Third, essential rural communities require essential public services. Fourth, youth and quality of life will drive lasting growth. Fifth, the EU needs to get back to basics and start focusing on meeting the day-to-day needs of its rural citizens.

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