Marie-Laure Augère-Granier (The European Parliamentary Research Service)
The concept of rural development underwent significant changes in the last few decades, thanks to which it has become another full-fledged policy at the EU level. It was necessary for this policy to adjust to the EU’s eastern enlargement in 2004 as well as to socio-economic, demographic and climate changes. Based on the 2013 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a “new” rural development policy was introduced, which underwent the process of modernization and was adapted to the new common EU strategic framework containing all structural and investment funds, thus reflecting Europe 2020 strategy via common thematic targets.
A distinct feature of this policy is the responsibility of national, regional and local bodies for the design and introduction of their own seven-year programs for rural development, which, however, have to fulfill conditions set by the European Agricultural Fund for rural development that co-finances these programs. Greater flexibility, which the new policy offers, brings on “tailored” options for the concrete needs of each region or country. In this new initiative, the European Parliament, as the ‘co-author’ of the reformed CAP, tries to provide farmers and other stakeholders with more favorable conditions than those that were originally proposed by the European Commission.
The crux of this new policy is the support for knowledge sharing and innovation. It is for this purpose that a new program called “Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability” was developed, which forms one of the five pillars of the European Innovation Partnership. Its main goals are focused on the development of competitive and sustainable agriculture and forestry. This innovative program is also designed to help address the issues of market price volatility, climate change and stricter environmental rules in these sectors. Member States have the option to include them in their rural development programs as a tool to support innovation projects, which connect farmers, researchers, consultants, non-profit organizations and other stakeholders within their respective operational groups.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://epthinktank.eu/2015/09/25/eu-rural-development-policy/)