SINGÜENZA, Spain. From September 27 to September 29, 2023, the FLIARA project contributed to the high-level Rural Policy Forum, which took place in Singüenza, Spain. The event, organised by the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, aimed to advance the political agenda for the future of rural areas and gather key political actors to support the objectives of the long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas (LTVRA) and the Rural Pact.
Since their inception in 2021, the LTVRA and the Rural Pact have gained significant political momentum within the European Union. Various EU institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and the Committee of the Regions (CoR), have been actively developing opinions and positioning themselves in alignment with this key initiative, which holds substantial importance for the future of rural Europe.
The momentum is now extending to Member States, which are exploring how to participate and contribute effectively to the rural vision and Pact. The Council of the European Union made references to the EU rural vision in its conclusions on the 8th Cohesion report on June 2, 2022, and in its conclusions on bioeconomy, which were adopted on April 25, 2023.
The Rural Pact serves as a framework for cooperation among authorities and stakeholders at the European, national, regional, and local levels. It fosters interactions on rural matters among public authorities, civil society, businesses, academia, and citizens, aligning their efforts with the shared goals of the LTVRA. Launched in December 2021, the Pact was developed in collaboration with EU institutions, stakeholders, and members of the Rural Pact community. The final proposal was endorsed at the 1st Rural Pact conference on June 15–16, 2022, in Sweden, organised by the Swedish government offices. This initiative aims to share knowledge and insights on how to act for rural areas within the framework of the Rural Pact.
The European Commission is currently exploring opportunities, in collaboration with the future Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union, to adopt Council conclusions dedicated to the long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas by the end of 2023. This process will build on lessons learned from the first two years of the rural vision’s implementation, particularly the stocktaking on actions carried out and programmed under the common agricultural policy and cohesion policy for 2021–2027.
The High-Level Rural Policy Forum had the following objectives:
- Enabling high-level policy exchanges between national authorities to contribute to the conclusions of the Council of the EU on the implementation of the LTVRA
- Sharing experiences on how EU policies and funds can best contribute to achieving the rural vision in key policy priority areas for the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU and exploring how the Rural Pact can add value
- Establishing a dialogue to explore with Member States enhanced multi-level governance frameworks and participatory structures to listen to the voices of rural actors and relevant stakeholders and enhance the design of rural policies that enable them to act within the framework of the Rural Pact
The Forum brought together more than 200 participants, primarily targeting policymakers and public authorities at the EU and national levels from all 27 Member States involved in the management of EU funds, particularly those related to EU common agricultural and cohesion policies. It also included the participation of EU networks and initiatives, regional and local authorities, stakeholder groups, civil society organisations, and academic institutions working on policy areas covered by the event. The representation was thoughtfully balanced among the countries involved.
Maura Farrell, Project Coordinator, Associated Professor, had the opportunity to introduce attendees to the FLIARA Project during the reporting of discussions and conclusions, with a specific focus on “Boosting Women’s Role in Rural Areas.” Her participation and insightful remarks underscore the commitment of FLIARA to address critical issues related to rural development, particularly with regard to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
During the forum’s breakout discussions, Maura Farrell played a prominent role in delivering results from the breakout sessions, especially on “Boosting Women’s Role in Rural Areas.” She emphasised the need to establish a clear framework for gender-proofing in policy and rural areas at the national and EU levels. Maura Farrell stressed that, without data, change cannot be driven, highlighting the importance of addressing gender disparities in rural areas.
The High-Level Rural Policy Forum in Singüenza, Spain, stands as a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to shape the future of rural areas in Europe and to foster collaboration among various stakeholders, as well as to address the specific challenges faced by women in rural regions.