Rural development is the second pillar of the common agricultural policy (CAP). It is in line with the Lisbon objective on competitiveness and the Gothenburg objective on sustainability and focuses on four fundamental areas:
- the competitiveness of agriculture, food products and forestry;
- land management and the environment;
- quality of life and diversification in rural areas;
- the Leader Community initiative.
Competitiveness is to be improved through measures targeting human and physical capital and food products, including quality production. Measures to protect natural resources and improve high nature value farming and forestry systems and cultural landscapes are being introduced. The quality of life in rural areas is being improved by encouraging the diversification of economic activities and the development of local infrastructure. Finally, the Leader initiative promotes diversification of the economic activities of rural areas through innovative, integrated local development schemes with an emphasis on participation.
Rural development policy has its own integrated financing and programming arrangements. The Council has drawn up a strategic approach for the 2007-2013 period, which will be translated into national strategic plans. As of 1 January 2007 all the measures will be financed by a single fund: the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).