Farm Ireland

Sunday 20 August 2017

'Quality broadband is essential for young people to remain in rural areas and businesses to thrive'

'If EU doesn't ease regulations, fewer farmers will safeguard unique landscape'

Stock photo
Stock photo
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

If young people are to remain in rural areas and businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive, quality broadband coverage is essential, according to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

It also said that if the EU doesn’t ease the regulatory burden, fewer and fewer farmers will be willing to safeguard and promote its unique landscape and this will be much more costly than targeted subsidies.

"Broadband is a must for businesses and entrepreneurs, and modern farming is more and more dependent on a well-functioning internet", said Ms Björnsson. Where market forces are not enough, EU funding should be used in order to help broadband reach remote communities.

Europe's rural regions vary within and between Member States and rural programmes and measures take into account the differences at EU and Member State level.

It also said that rural proofing - or identifying the impact of policy decisions on rural areas - must be mandatory for future rural funding.

It called for more targeted funding, based on the priorities of Member States, regions and citizens' initiatives, to help rural areas develop.

Only rural proofing which is mandatory will ensure effective policies, it said.

Rural development practically affects all policy areas and the committee said that a more cohesive policy as well as to increase the shares of the other ESI funds – in particular of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) – allocated to rural development.

"These are necessary steps in order to reduce existing disparities and territorial imbalances."

"Rural proofing which results only in reports and findings is meaningless; it must deliver a true and accurate basis for people who are taking the rural policy decisions including the distribution of funding", said Brendan Burns, President of the EESC NAT section.

Farmland and forests make up 85pc of the EU's land area and provide Europeans with food, animal feed, energy and fibre as well as with public assets such as rich flora and fauna. This diverse landscape can also help generate economic activities other than agriculture, particularly in the tourism and recreation industry, it said.

Agriculture is also the main driver in the transition to sustainable food systems. "Promoting local consumption not only benefits local economies and agricultural production, but shortens the supply chain and thus helps our environment."

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