Rural, mountainous and remote areas are home to 300 million people in the European Union: 59% of its population (24% in rural and 35% in intermediate areas). Those areas provide food, raw materials, jobs and a wide range of environmental goods and services, such as cultural and recreational landscapes, biodiversity, water, energy and soils. Yet EU policies do not cover all life aspects in those areas and this contributes to widening the gap between rural, mountainous, remote areas and urban ones.
The facts speak for themselves:
- GDP per capita in rural areas is 70% of the EU average, whereas urban inhabitants enjoy a GDP per capita as high as 123% of the EU average;
- unemployment rate in rural areas increased from 7% to 10.4% between 2008 and 2012;
- one-fourth of the rural population has no access to the Internet;
- elderly people (over 65) represent a worrisome 20% of the rural population, a proportion that is increasing;
- although it is the main source of employment in Europe, only 24% of rural employment is in the service sector.
There is an urgent need to reduce the gap between rural, mountainous and remote areas towards the urban ones. All EU citizens deserve a good quality of life, with access to jobs, information, transport and clean energy sources. Territorial cohesion is not just a core value of the EU, but it is a key condition in order to live well throughout the European Union. It must include all EU territories in their diversity, whether isolated or facing urban sprawl. MEPs have a chance to address these challenges and raise awareness about the disadvantages experienced by people living in rural, mountainous and remote areas. They have also the opportunity to develop and to highlight the human, economic and natural potential of those territories.
This is the spirit and the nature of the Intergroup on rural, mountainous and remote areas, which has been created for the 2014-2019 parliamentary term with a large support in the European Parliament.
Chair of the Intergroup on rural, mountainous and remote areas