On 16 July in Strasbourg, Members of the European Parliament Franc Bogovič (EPP) and Engin Ergolu (RE) hosted the inaugural meeting of the Intergroup SMART Villages for Rural Communities.

This Lunch-Debate at the European Parliament was the opportunity to present the new Intergroup, which aims to enable exchanges on innovative ways to create vibrant and attractive rural communities in sparsely populated, mountainous and rural territories. The Intergroup will also support the Smart Villages initiative launched by MEP Bogovič and fomer MEP Tibor Szanyi during the previous legislature.

MEP Bogovič held a passionate speech about the need to revitalize rural communities in the European Union. “We are here to find solutions”, he said, “we need new policies for rural areas in many fields such as agriculture, mobility, energy and the sharing economy.” “This project is about societal change, it is about the people living in these territories”, MEP Bogovič insisted.

The Intergroup will be a forum to discuss policy ideas and push for a Smart European Rural Agenda. The Smart European Rural Agenda promotes integrated development to improve the quality of life in sparsely populated, mountainous and rural territories and foster opportunities for all Europeans.

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Former MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij and György Mudri, both guests at the event to present their recently published books on Smart Villages, echoed the same sentiment. “The goal of Smart Villages is not only to modernise infrastructure, but also to develop the skills of citizens in rural territories”, said Mr. Mudri, while Mr. van Nistelrooij gave insights on the road ahead and advised the Intergroup to work on a cross-sectoral approach to territorial development. Mr. van Nistelrooij also highlighted the important role that the Intergroup will have in “putting these topics on the table” and advocating for concrete policy answers.

SMART Villages for Rural Communities builds on the achievements of the RUMRA Intergroup (2014-2019), including the adoption in 2018 of a European Parliament Resolution on addressing the specific needs of rural, mountainous and remote areas.

The supporting organisations of RUMRA – Euromontana, R.E.D. and the FREE Initiative – were all represented during the event, together with SSPA, one of the two new members of the Intergroup, with CEJA. The association EUMA also attended as an observer of the Intergroup.

The event brought together MEPs from four political groups. The Intergroup notably received the support of Mairead McGuiness (EPP, Vice-President of the European Parliament), Clara Aguilera (S&D), Tomislav Sokol (EPP), Tom Berendsen (EPP), Sheila Ritchie (RE), and Nicolae Ștefănuță (RE).

SMART Villages for Rural Communities welcomed this wide-ranging interest and support, which will be needed to formally set up the Intergroup, and to shape together the future of sparsely populated, mountainous and rural territories in Europe.

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[NB: in October 2019, the name of the Intergroup was changed to RUMRA & Smart Villages]