The European Network of SSPA is very aware of the votes that will be held in the European Parliament next week, because according to them now it is possible to take another big step that modifies European policies by integrating depopulated areas into European policies and endowing them with funds.
In January, the Regional Development Commission within the European Parliament debated and voted on the amendments to the common provisions that incorporate different references to depopulation, taking the decision on which ones were incorporated into the document on the future EU policy that goes to define the funds and concrete policies to combat depopulation. The SSPA Network, formed by the business organizations and LAGs of Soria, Cuenca, Teruel, previously made an analysis of the amendments (you can consult their report at http://sspa-network.eu/) and met with several MEPs and with the Vice President of the European Parliament to convey to them the importance of these amendments addressing the great problem of the most unpopulated areas of Europe.
Following the European Parliament’s rejection in February of the explicit incorporation of the problem of depopulation in the approval of the Regulation of Common Provisions of European funds for the period 2021-2025, several amendments to the Regulation of the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund approved by the Committee on Regional Policy of the European Parliament have managed to reach the plenary agenda and will be voted this week in Strasbourg.
The SSPA Network already transmitted at that time that only one step had been taken and there was still a long way to go, and now it is very aware of how the voting in the European Parliament will take place, now they convey their satisfaction for this achievement, but at the same time it warns “If on Wednesday at least the main amendments are approved, there is still a long negotiation process ahead with the European Commission and the Council that could be modified with what has been achieved.”
This network of sparsely populated areas of Southern Europe has studied the amendments that have been passed to the Plenary of Strasbourg and are important for depopulated territories, highlighting some of them and assessing them in a press release. There are amendments proposing that the ERDF should pay more specific attention to demographic change as a fundamental challenge and a priority area in the design and implementation of programs, suggest that at least 5% of the ERDF resources available at national level in the framework of the investment objective in employment and growth, will be assigned to integrated territorial development in non-urban areas that suffer natural, geographic or demographic disadvantages, or that have difficulties accessing basic services.
In addition, they introduce an important precedent by providing content to the definition of the concept “areas with serious or permanent natural or demographic disadvantages” of art. 174 which has limited its effects to the outermost regions, to the sparsely populated areas of Scandinavia and little else, adding the provincial level and the loss of population.
The SSPA Network values these amendments positively, but is concerned that the most important of these is confusing, since according to statements by its coordinator Sara Bianchi “it does not adequately discriminate the different types and degrees of the demographic problem, and proposes a statistical definition of disadvantage. This is a serious and permanent demographic so lax that it barely helps to distinguish the territories that have serious problems from those that do not, and if this is the case, European policies will continue to confront the problem of the unpopulated areas of Europe. ”
The coordinator of the Network SSPA has stressed that “if the bulk of these amendments are approved, it will set a precedent in the long struggle to make European funds and policies effective in the fight against depopulation. A precedent that, without a doubt, should be improved in the future through legislative development and in practice of its effective application that should accompany it in the Member States and in future European policies. “