On Tuesday, 22 September the European Parliament Intergroup on Rural, Mountainous and Remote Areas (RUMRA) held a conference at the Committee of the Regions on territorial cohesion, rural-urban interactions and inclusive growth in the context of regional and cohesion policy and in relation to the Europe 2020 strategy. The event focused on the importance of aligning the cohesion policy with rural dynamics, and served as an opportunity for the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament and rural stakeholders to debate the potential of rural territories and how to interconnect rural and urban policies innovatively. At the event, the European Countryside Movement launched a call for a White Paper on rurality which received the support of the RUMRA Intergroup (here is the memorandum <http://doc.ruraleurope.org/public/Web/Communication/MER/EN/MERCom20141E.pdf> ).

The event covered a range of relevant topics, including the role of the RUMRA intergroup in sustainable development, territorial cohesion and rural-urban relations in the EU, inclusive growth policies, and how rural territories could benefit from the ESPON 2020 programme.

Regional Commissioner Corina Creţu acknowledged the importance of rural areas, while underlining that in her home country – Romania – more than 40 % of the population live in rural areas. She also stressed that challenges of rural dwellers need to be urgently addressed, while underlining the need to look into other aspects of rural areas than agriculture. Mr. Anthony Buchanan, vice-chair of the NAT commission of the European Committee of the Regions, stressed that “the cooperation among the Committee of the Regions and the Parliament will be crucial to ensure that the voice of rural areas is heard by EU institutions and to clarify and consolidate the place of rural areas within Europe 2020 strategy’s objective of inclusive growth.”

A common theme throughout the conference was the fact that cooperation and solidarity of different EU bodies are essential for furthering rural development, as well as the need for stronger partnership between rural and urban regions. Participants recognized the challenge the differences between EU member states, regions, and mountainous and remote areas pose to creating comprehensive and cohesive policies that address rural needs.

Mme Mercedes Bresso, MEP, Chair of the RUMRA intergroup, reflected many of the voices at the conference when she stated that “rural development policies should be fully included into regional and cohesion policy, so to support a comprehensive development of rural areas. We should not consider rural areas as merely agricultural ones, we know that other enormous opportunities has to be exploited in those areas”.

Mme Bresso went on to emphasise that “more connectivity in terms of ICT and infrastructure is needed, but also sharing of best practices and experiences. Funding and support from the EU, and Member States, should be consequent to the vital challenges and should also come from regional and cohesion policy.”

Gérard Peltre, president of Rurality-Environment-Development and of the European Countryside Movement, underlined that “The added value and the potential for creativity that rural areas can bring, in all their diversity, are significant. But the contributions they can make to the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy are under-recognised and under-exploited. Taking rural areas into account as development and innovation poles would strengthen their involvement in EU programmes and make the most of their potential.

Franc Bogovič, MEP, Vice-Chair of the RUMRA intergroup and the Chair of the Working Group on Rural and Urban interrelations stressed that “Urban and rural areas are becoming more and more integrated. Due to the fact that we are facing many challenges, such as climate change, efficient use of natural resources and their equal availability, as well as demographic changes, the cooperation between urban, peri-urban and rural areas in crucial. Nevertheless, the cooperation can only be successful if the benefits are mutual – better economic development, such as positive effect on the labour markets and improvement in quality of life, as I already mentioned.” The conference was held as part of the activities of the Working Group on Rural and Urban interrelations, within the RUMRA Intergroup, led by Franc Bogovič. <http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/125004/FRANC_BOGOVIC_home.html>  (EPP, Slovenia), MEP, and one of the Vice Chairs of the Intergroup. The conference was organised by the international association Rurality-Environment-Development (R.E.D.), Board Member of RUMRA, in partnership with the European Countryside Movement (E.C.M.) with the support of the NAT Commission of the Committee of the Regions. See the photos from the conference here <https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipMoMZJOmP3y0sW4nL_JZWGRlBrRAKYD06VPXbzGUzKI0__CFJM7kukjx2x0YXlurA?key=eUV0djFESVBBT2xNeHQ4OWliQ1RFcFk1dXh1aDNn> .