3 mins


Wiktor Szydarowski, ESPON EGTC Director

Europe is mobilising all forces to pursue a recovery plan with grants and loans at the ultimate value of EUR 750 billion (NextGenerationEU). The Member States have submitted their proposals, but the implementation will be challenging. Bureaucratic obstacles, lack of administrative capacities and potential resurgence of the pandemic could derail the strategies. Do we have enough firepower for this war?

The Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, in her exclusive article for TerritoriALL, explains that we do. And the Minister of Environment and Climate Action of Portugal, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, outlines the efforts of the Portuguese Presidency to make Europe more resilient and socially responsible.

Part of this future is the long-term vision for rural areas, described by Vice President Dubravka Suica in the opening interview of our thematic dossier. Ms Suica aspires to capitalise on all European policies and the Conference on the Future of Europe to create new momentum for rural areas.

The linkages between the EU's cohesion policy and the rural areas are highlighted by two Members of the European Parliament. Francisco Guerreiro, Vice-Chair of the AGRI Committee, asks for a universal basic income to support an ecological transition. And Andrei Novakov, member of the REGI Committee, explains how rural areas can benefit from the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe, one of the largest programmes under the NextGenerationEU instrument.

The long-term vision for rural areas is just the beginning and not the end of the debate, underlines Enrique Nieto, from the ENRD. And this edition of TerritoriALL hosts articles that already carry some innovative ideas for nurturing the debate, such as the "Territorial Contract" put forward by Stefano Palmieri and Peter Schmidt , presidents of the ECO and NAT sections of the EESC, and the "Rural Semester' proposed by Marion Eckardt, President of the ELRD. Eugenio Giani, President of the Tuscany Region, comes up with ideas for how the potential of rural areas can be harnessed to make them suitable places for innovation opportunities, while Guillaume Cros, CoR rapporteur on CAP reform and agroecology, proposes a new legislative initiative to ensure resilient and sovereign food systems. André Viola, President of CEPLI asks the EU to ensure local authorities will be actively involved in the implementation of the programmes and initiatives related to recovery.

'The pandemic has helped us to rediscover places that were left behind', says Professor João Ferrão in his inspiring interview. And two members of the ESPON Monitoring Committee, Marie-Lorraine Dangeard and Jan Edøy, provide interesting case studies from France and Scandinavia on ways that the rural areas can adapt in the new era.

Miguel Freitas, Professor at the University of Algarve, describes a new national programme to increase the resilience and valorisation of rural areas. Territorial resilience is a key word for recovery; And Professor António Manuel Figueiredo helps us to understand its implications for spatial planning.

So are rural areas the new places to be? That seems to be the conclusion of Andreea China from the ESPON EGTC and Fatima Bacharel from the Portuguese Ministry of Environment and Climate Action, who present the challenges but also the opportunities that the COVID-19 crisis triggered for rural areas, based on the recent joint policy brief by ESPON and the Portuguese Presidency.

The pandemic also heralds new opportunities for communication- as the launch of the TerritoriALL online magazine in May 2020 proves. Agnes Monfret and Claudio Nichele from the DG Regio and our colleagues from Interreg Europe, Interact and Urbact explain how the crisis made them change their models and priorities to help adapt to a digital era.

Furthermore, this third issue of TerritoriALL takes us through the challenges faced by European lake areas, the climate impact of spatial planning, the role of eco-clusters as governance tools, the approaches to involving older people in policy making, new ESPON research to scale social consequences of the pandemic, the aspirations of the upcoming Slovenian Presidency and much more.

Enjoy reading and do not forget to download our new application on your mobile. It will give you a unique reading experience and the opportunity to share your favourite articles directly on social media. It will also give you access to all our previous issues in a handy library.

This article appears in Rural areas: an eye to the future

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Rural areas: an eye to the future
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Wiktor Szydarowski, ESPON EGTC
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The semester of the Portuguese Presidency of the
Now is the time for territorial, smart and ambitious investments!
Elisa Ferreira Europe's response to the crisis is
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A new pathway is emerging for the prosperous future of rural areas
Fatima Bacharel Andreea China Rural areas:
The EU cohesion policy needs a universal basic income
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Guillaume Cros The Occitanie region is
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