Today's adoption of Greece's Rural Development Programme (RDP) marks the end of the adoption process for all 118 programmes for the 2014-2020 period. With €99.6 billion from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and another €60.6 billion of co-funding from national and regional public funds or private investment, the RDPs will help European rural areas and communities face the current economic, environmental and social challenges, and take advantage of the opportunities ahead of them.
Marking this milestone, Commissioner Phil Hogan said: "The Rural Development Programme is about jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness in rural Europe. The goal is to empower rural areas and communities to meet the wide range of challenges and opportunities that face them in the 21st century: economic, social and environmental. With smart and strategic investment, the RDPs will drive generational renewal and create the conditions for a vibrant rural economy, society and environment. With COP21 ongoing in Paris, there is an inevitable focus in addressing the considerable climate challenge and the Rural Development Programme has a significant role to play in contributing to meeting this challenge."
Predominantly rural regions represent 52% of the EU territory and have a population of 112.1 million people. These regions differ significantly from one to the other and the challenges they face reflect many different circumstances. That is why the Commission provides greater flexibility to Member States so that the support is more closely tailored to the particular needs of each region or country and reflects a greater emphasis on subsidiarity. This way, Member States can build their own national or regional programmes, reflecting these particularities, based on at least four of the six common priorities: knowledge and innovation, competitiveness, better food chain organisation, preserving ecosystems, resource efficiency, and social inclusion. These priorities also reflect the extent to which RDP funding has a beneficial impact on society in general and not just on the farming and other rural communities.
For example, the Polish authorities decided to dedicate one third of their RDP's funding to enhance farm viability and competitiveness, with a programme that will provide investment support to roughly 200 000 farms and more than 1 800 producer groups, targeting the creation of thousands of jobs. Support for the setting-up of young farmers is included in many regional programmes, such as those for Picardie and Basse-Normandie in France.
Climate action is amongst the most frequent project priority in national and regional RDPs.
For example, Austria allocated 71% of its support to better management of natural resources and to encourage climate friendly farming practices, with the objective of having 83 % of farmland managed under contracts to support improved biodiversity and 75 % to improve water quality.
Similarly, the central priority of Ireland's RDP is restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry. Three quarters of the total funding for Ireland is allocated to this priority.
Connecting rural areas and enhancing infrastructure is an important pre-requisite for competitiveness. In Italy, Calabria's RDP will contribute to social inclusion and economic development in rural areas by bringing improved broadband infrastructure to about 48% of the rural population.
Some of the overall expected achievements for the 2014-2020 period are outlined in this factsheet. The implementation and impact of Rural Development Programmes is monitored and evaluated in detail. The findings are available in reports published on the Commission's website.
Support for Rural Development is the 2nd Pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy. It provides Member States with an envelope of EU funding to manage nationally or regionally under multi-annual, co-funded programmes. In total, 118 programmes worth €99.6 billion are foreseen for all 28 Member States (more than the €95.6 billion announced one year ago because of transfers from the 1st pillar). The new Rural Development Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013) for the period 2014-2020 addresses six economic, environmental and social priorities. The programmes contain clear targets setting out what is to be achieved. Moreover and in order to coordinate actions better and maximise synergies with the other European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF), a partnership agreement has been agreed with each Member State. These agreements highlight the broad strategy of EU-funded structural investment. With a budget of €454 billion for 2014-2020, the ESIFs are the EU's main investment policy tool.