Speech by Commissioner Phil Hogan at OECD Conference on Rural Development, Edinburgh
Good afternoon Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to see so many familiar faces and to welcome a few new faces! The OECD Conference on Rural Development is always a great opportunity to take stock of where we are, and where we are going, when it comes to smart and modern policies for our rural areas.
In Memphis 3 years ago, I gave an outline of what EU rural development policy is doing at the present time. Today, I will look more to the future.
We are currently finalising the European Commission proposal for the next programming period of our agriculture and rural development policy, spanning the years 2020 to 2027.
We believe without question that a strong rural development policy helps to ensure the vitality of our rural areas, and serves the well-being of society as a whole.
And we believe innovation must be at the heart of any meaningful rural development policy. We need to find smarter ways to empower rural communities, giving them the tools to not only enhance the well-being of their families and regions, but to provide more benefits for society as a whole.
I am delighted that the European Network for Rural Development has been closely involved with the pre-conference sessions which have helped prepare the ground for our discussions today. Networking, as demonstrated in action here in Edinburgh by the ENRD, is a key tool supported under EU Rural Development Policy. It aims to identify and share good practice in rural development and promote innovative approaches.
I understand the pre-conference saw rural practitioners showcase a range of exciting and innovative initiatives and projects already going on in rural areas – from adding value in the food chain both here in Scotland and in Italy, to developing Smart Villages in Germany. It provided a space for a wide mix of rural practitioners – from farmers and food business, local development groups and public authorities directly implementing rural policies – to connect and exchange views on the practical conditions and policies needed to enable such new approaches. As policy makers we need to listen closely to the key messages that emerged.
The 10 megatrends identified by the OECD provide a solid foundation for our work. The global picture of population growth, irregular migration, rural development, as well as the climate and environment challenge, emphasises the need for innovative solutions. And there is no time to waste.
We need to step up our efforts to address these challenges, and the final text we agree for the Edinburgh Policy Statement should prove very valuable in that regard.