Committee of the Regions: cultural heritage essential for strengthening economies rural areas

Promoting culture in rural areas is key for sustainable development, attracting youth, and countering population decline, as highlighted in Csaba Borboly's opinion at the European Committee of the Regions.

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Press release COR – Supporting culture and cultural industries in rural areas is vital to promote the sustainable development of these regions so that they can retain and attract young people and combat demographic decline. The active participation of local authorities in managing these cultural policies is essential to adapt the measures to the needs of rural areas. These are the key messages of the opinion led by Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP), President of Harghita County Council, adopted at the Plenary Session of the European Committee of the Regions on 29 November.

To cope with the profound social and economic changes linked to the depopulation of rural areas in recent decades, local and regional leaders said in their opinion on “Promoting cultural policies in rural areas within the framework of development and territorial cohesion strategies and the 2030 Agenda” that it is essential to support and promote cultural and creative sectors and industries (CCIs) in these areas, arguing that they can play a crucial role in strengthening rural economies and generating employment, as a result making rural areas more attractive places to live and work.

Members of the Committee of the Regions also emphasised that supporting cultural industries in rural areas would help to ensure that that rural communities have more equal access to cultural offerings, fostering equal opportunities for urban and rural populations. The regions and cities stated that, to this end, it is essential to improve and expand digital infrastructures to enable cultural operators to set up and work in rural areas.

The natural and cultural heritage of Europe’s rural areas, including traditional knowledge and practices and their unique characteristics, and biodiversity, is an exceptional asset for local development, the opinion argues. The CoR strongly advocated the promotion of rural cultural assets, such as local crafts, regional products and gastronomy, through sustainable cultural tourism. This approach not only stimulates the rural economy, but also showcases the unique local identities of these regions.

The Committee of the Regions underscored that local and regional authorities should play a significant part in defining and implementing cultural policies, as they are the government structures closest to the citizens and best acquainted with the specificities of their territories and populations.

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Rapporteur Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP) said: “The European rural environment has undergone profound structural changes impacting multiple spheres – political, social, economic, environmental, and cultural. Despite these challenges, innovative approaches have emerged, redefining the rural landscape and presenting new cultural paradigms amid the prevailing eco-social crisis. The preservation of cultural heritage is imperative as it extends beyond mere economic or ethnographic considerations, forming the core identity of regions.”

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The EU’s rural areas – communes and municipalities of Europe with low population size or density are home to 137 million people, representing almost 30% of the EU’s population and over 83% of its territory.

Acknowledging the range of challenges faced by rural areas, in June 2021 the European Commission published a communication that set out a long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas up to 2040 and a comprehensive rural action plan to help rural communities and businesses reach their full potential.

The European Commission also recently published a report on how citizen participation in cultural activities enhances civic engagement, democracy and social cohesion.

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