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Member of the European Commission responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries

Concluding press conference

European Conference on Rural Development

Salzburg, Austria, 14 November 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen:

First of all I would like to give a very warm welcome to the Ministers and the chairpersons of the working groups.

Before handing over to Mr Daul, let me say a few words to sum up this conference.

I will make this brief since you already have the text of my speech to the plenary and the Salzburg final conclusions.

I believe we can say with a good conscience that this conference has been a success. The number of participants has been high, the work intensive, the discussions lively, the mood positive; but most importantly:

Here in Salzburg we have managed to send a very clear signal about how we envision an up-to-date, effective and sustainable policy on rural development, just as I hoped at the outset of the conference.

This Salzburg conference is broadcasting some very clear messages:

Rural development is not a weekend allotment in which academics can play at farming. Rural development concerns us all, whether farmer, rural community or city-dweller. Without a living countryside, farming has no future, and without farmers the rural areas do not have one either.

Which is why we have agreed here in Salzburg that it is not enough to focus rural development entirely on agriculture.

A meaningful rural development policy should of course improve the competitiveness of agriculture, in particular in the new Member States.

But it has also become clear in our discussions that we need diversification, modernisation, investment and jobs outside the farming sector if we want to have living and sustainable rural communities.

There is also complete agreement that the effectiveness and transparency of rural development policy must be improved.

The policy must become substantially simpler and more user-friendly.

In the debates over the coming months it will be our goal to find out how we can translate all that into practice.

I personally intend to put my weight behind a single "countryside fund" which will finance the whole of rural development policy at European Union level.

Programming, funding, controls. That is the way to go in future.

Programmes will set out what the regions want and need, i.e. "bottom-up" and not "top-down". Local actors, and civil society itself, must be more closely involved.

And let me remind you: Salzburg has not been the finishing line, but the starting gun for intensive discussions at regional, national and EU level from which to make a new beginning.

It remains for us to spread the word about the "Salzburg experience", to start to convince others that we need a strong rural development policy, and one which benefits farmers, consumers and taxpayers equally.

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