Rural areas are home to 30% of the EU population and cover 80% of its territory, but they are still underappreciated and left behind. Developing stronger, resilient, prosperous, and connected rural areas by 2040, above all connected, is the aim of the European Commission through the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas.
“Connectivity is the condition ‘sine qua non’ for the development of quality of life for the rural areas”, stated Mario Milouchev, Director of the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, in an interview with the European Broadband Competence Offices Network. It is a fundamental pre-requisite for the development of business, health, education, administration and banking services,
In the video developed by BCO as part of their programme to promote awareness of good practices in broadband projects as well as EU broadband funding and policy, Mr. Milouchev also highlighted that broadband should become a basic service, as water and electricity are, in order to cover 100 % of the territory by 2025.
The previous Commission communication regarding this topic was produced 33 years ago, in 1988, when there were only 12 Member States in the EU, the iron curtain was in place and there was no Internet. The evolution that has taken place over these years has promoted the current vision, which describes the state of play of rural areas in Europe, analyses it and foresees the steps in 20 years’ time.
In order to gather all the European Commission’s policies for rural areas, and establish a Rural Action Plan involving all levels of governance and all the relevant rural actors, the EC launched the Rural Pact in December 2021. Governance bodies and stakeholders at EU, national, regional and local levels can join this community to contribute to the creation of a common framework. All the proposals for its management were presented at the Rural Pact Conference on 15-16 June 2022 in Brussels.
Undoubtedly, connectivity is key to revitalise rural areas for several reasons. It could lead to better opportunities, it could open doors to online business opportunities, it could unleash new innovations in crop harvesting, and it could keep families and bring people back to the countryside thanks to enabling remote working, telemedicine, online services and innovations in agriculture.