(Source: European Commission)
“Check against delivery”
I welcome this timely conference. Recent events have proved that we cannot take peace for granted.
Europe’s resilience and Europe’s open strategic autonomy, in an increasingly troubled world, are two key elements shaping our prosperity today and tomorrow.
So my thanks to the organisers, because this resilience and autonomy must start by making sure that all our territories matter and that we are able to fully tap their potential.
Home to 137 million people, a third of Europe’s population, Europe’s rural areas make up around 80% of our territory.
So, as Europe seeks to build an open strategic autonomy, rural areas will be crucial. They provide food and water. They provide key raw materials. They provide new opportunities for employment thanks to digitisation. And rural areas have the greatest potential for clean energy, from solar power to wind.
Moreover, as Covid reminded us, there is a safety in rural living, as well as a quality of life, which we as Europeans would do well to maintain.
And in the green transformation, some of the most exciting new jobs could land in small towns, villages and rural areas.
From sustainable tourism, to renewable energy. From green public transport to recycling.
But to make the most of the potential of rural areas, we must ensure that rural life is economically viable and sustainable.
This is the goal of Europe’s Long Term Vision for Rural Areas, which brings together 9 flagship initiatives where European sectoral policies are tailored to the needs of each specific rural area.
And this is the goal of European cohesion policy, which supports the development of rural areas.
We invest in public services to ensure that rural life is sustainable and that rural communities have access to childcare and schooling, to healthcare and leisure services.
We invest in broadband and small and medium companies support, to enable the diversification of economic activities, and the creation of new jobs, taking advantage of the high quality of life in rural areas.
We invest in flood and fire prevention, as well as protection measures.
And we invest in green jobs, from renewable energy to renovation, from biodiversity to recycling.
All of these investments are chosen by national programme authorities in close collaboration with local partners.
In fact, we have a dedicated local development priority, “A Europe closer to citizens” designed to promote local development, planned and implemented by and with local people.
Rural areas have a lot of potential, from food security to key resources, from clean energy to a high quality of life. The investments of cohesion policy are there to support this potential, to ensure that all regions thrive in the new economy, that no region is left behind and that our Union can grow more prosperous more resilient and more cohesive.
So we welcome your discussions today, and are ready to offer our support. Let’s keep our dialogue going and thank you for this initiative.