The launch of the rural revitalization platform marks a significant step towards tackling depopulation in rural areas. On June 29th, 2023, AEIDL, partner of SafeHabitus, supported the EC DG AGRI with the launch of this tool during the Policy Action Lab held in Brussels. This event aimed to build upon previous efforts and explore how policies and initiatives can foster development in rural areas grappling with population decline.
Numerous rural areas in Europe are witnessing a sustained decrease in population, particularly among the working-age group (20-64 years old) and the youth (below 20 years old). This trend has far-reaching consequences, exacerbating socioeconomic disparities between urban and rural regions.
Farmers have been significantly impacted by depopulation in rural EU areas. As younger generations migrate to cities, labour shortages and an aging farming population have emerged as major challenges. Farmers find it difficult to secure workers for various agricultural tasks in many regions, resulting in increased workloads and diminished productivity. Additionally, the advancing average age of farmers highlights the urgent need for succession planning and identifying successors to sustain agricultural enterprises.
The diminished population in depopulated rural areas has also taken a toll on infrastructure and services. Educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and public transportation options have become scarce, making these regions less appealing to young individuals. The lack of essential infrastructure further perpetuates the cycle of depopulation. Moreover, the economic viability of farming has been compromised due to reduced demand for agricultural products stemming from a declining local population. Farmers face hurdles in selling their products at profitable prices, leading to financial difficulties and potential abandonment of agricultural activities.
The EU has envisioned a long-term plan for revitalizing rural areas, including the Rural Pact, with the aim of strengthening and empowering depopulated regions to be more resilient, connected, and prosperous by 2040. In line with this vision, the European Commission has launched the rural revitalization platform—a comprehensive resource hub for rural communities, project holders, and local authorities to connect, collaborate, and access relevant information.
The platform serves as a repository of information and resources tailored to rural communities grappling with population loss, aging, and demographic decline. Various stakeholders, ranging from regional and local authorities to Local Action Groups and national CAP networks, are encouraged to utilise the platform in their efforts to revitalize their territories.
The platform is designed to provide rural stakeholders with valuable insights into successful practices and inspiring policy experiences, helping them understand the key factors that enable rejuvenation. Additionally, it offers a space for discussion and exchange through thematic or geographic online community groups. Users are invited to join these communities to share experiences, seek solutions specific to their regions, and explore topics such as Smart Villages and Women in Rural Areas. Furthermore, interested parties can apply to create new community groups to further address relevant aspects of rural revitalization.