EU Rural Review: Final reflections

Recognising the challenges of a fraught and uncertain future and seeking to build greater resilience need to be embedded in policy design. If that design were just a top-down procedure its implementation would be compromised from the outset.

Beyond the environmental crisis, there are parallel crises relating to the social consequences of demographic change, the residual poverty of many areas  and deep-seated and enduring spatial  and social inequalities.

The broader rural economy has been somewhat neglected in European policy, apart from the strong commitment to food security evidenced. The mid-21st century will become a time when the vitality of rural spaces will be reasserted but as far more than a place for food and fibre production alone. 

What are the crucial changes needed to make rural Europe more resilient by the mid-21st century? At the apex of concerns is the necessity to mitigate climate change and to enhance strategies for adaptation to floods, droughts and extremes temperature. Biodiversity loss and other forms of environmental damage such as water pollution also compromise resilience. Europe can lead by example but there remains a need for punishing environmental offenders by green border taxes. 

There are projects that are pioneering change and can inspire further initiatives. Mainstreaming them would be to everyone’s advantage but the blockages to scaling them up need to be removed. 

Rural Europe is on the threshold of changes that could massively enhance its prosperity and resilience as the world turns to biomaterials to replace hydrocarbon-based materials, more local food systems and more renewable energy. We hope to soon have a clearly defined collective European vision of the adaptive pathways we need to follow.

“Rural areas are the fabric of our society and the heartbeat of our economy. They are a core part of our identity and our economic potential. We will cherish and preserve our rural areas and invest in their future”

Ursula von der Leyen

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