The New Rural Europe: Towards Rural Cohesion Policy

Much of rural Europe is steadily shifting away from our twentieth century conceptions. However, rural policy has been slow to adjust. There is an urgent need for a fresh approach, more attuned to contemporary realities and issues, which we shall term “Rural Cohesion Policy”.

Rural Europe has in many senses been transformed in recent years, particularly by the arrival of broadband internet, together with all the changes in business practice, consumer preferences, working conditions, education, service delivery, and other aspects of daily life. Transport infrastructure has been extended and improved in many parts of Europe. A large swathe of rural areas in the Centre and East of Europe has experienced the effects of accession to the Single Market.

This report is based on findings from the EDORA (European Development Opportunities in Rural Areas) project. The overarching aim of EDORA was to examine the process of differentiation in rural areas, in order to better understand how EU, national and regional policy can enable these areas to build upon their specific potentials to achieve (in the words of the EU 2020 strategy) “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.” EDORA was a project funded under the ESPON 2013 programme. It began in September 2008 and was completed in March 2011. This project was coordinated by the University of the Highlands and Islands, supported by a large consortium representing twelve EU Member States.