The President of the Business Confederation of Teruel, as a representative of the SSPA, met today with both institutions to continue adding allies to this problem, which particularly affects the provinces of Cuenca, Teruel and Soria.
Fernando García Vicente and Carmen Sánchez, Ombudsman of Aragon and President of the Aragonese Federation of Municipalities, Counties and Provinces respectively, have shown their commitment in the fight against depopulation and their willingness to collaborate with the SSPA.
The SSPA, the Southern Scarcely Populated Areas network, has met the 29th of March with two important institutions that allow them to continue joining allies in the fight against depopulation. On the one hand, the President of the Business Confederation of Teruel, Carlos Torre, as representative of the SSPA, was received at the headquarters of the defender of the people of Aragon by Fernando García Vicente, who has transferred the work being done to deal effectively with this problem. The SSPA has offered to collaborate in updating the report on depopulation prepared at the end of the 1990s by the Ombudsman of Aragon to serve as an argument to the meetings and to bring together the steps to be taken to stop this situation, which affects to the provinces of Cuenca, Teruel and Soria. It is, without any doubts, a significant meeting, as the defender of the people of Aragon is one of the main signs of identity of the Aragonese community in its role as protector and defender of the individual and collective rights of citizens facing the Public Administrations.
On the other hand, the SSPA also wanted to inform of its work to another fundamental institution in this fight, and to be able to explore different ways of collaboration between both associations.
It is the Aragonese Federation of Municipalities, Counties and Provinces with its president in charge, Carmen Sánchez. An organization very interested in defending the interests of the local entities to the other public administrations, collecting and channeling the claims of the same. Joaquín Palacín and Enrique Giménez, General Directors in the Aragon Government of Territorial Vertebration and of Institutional Relations respectively, as well as Ángel Gracia, President of the commission of small municipalities and depopulation of this federation to study possible collaborations between these entities.
Key issues have been addressed at both meetings, such as the need to design and implement measures in collaboration with other civil society actors and to deal efficiently with problems such as low population densitywith the Government of Spain. Problems have also been addressed such as aging or the inefficient existing structure to settle new inhabitants, as well as the serious economic, social and environmental consequences of this situation which are on the way to becoming irreversible.
CEOE Teruel President Carlos Torre highlighted that these meetings “have been very interesting so that both the Ombudsman and FAMCP know the actions we are developing and we will see how we can collaborate to achieve the objectives of the 2020-2026 agenda” .
Also the President of the FAMCP, Carmen Sánchez, said that “we must value the rural environment and its strengths; such as agriculture, livestock, the environment and the heritage of all of us, we must go hand in hand all public and private actors to improve the situation and to have an optimistic message”.
The Southern Sparsely Populated Areas network (SSPA) aims to achieve a different European policy in 2020 for these sparsely populated regions. This SSPA is limited to these three Spanish provinces because they are the only ones that recognize the official statistics of the European Union with the consideration of sparsely populated areas.
Both meetings are part of a series of contacts aimed at finding allies that will allow them to count on projects and programs within the Association Agreement 2020-2026, noting that this network is limited to three spanish provinces, because they are the only ones recognized with the consideration of sparsely populated areas by official statistics of the European Union.
The work of the SSPA
These meetings take place after the meetings that SSPA representats have held with representatives of the Spanish Government, such as the Minister of Justice, Rafael Catalá, or the Secretary of State for Territorial Administrations, Roberto Bermúdez de Castro. They also transferred the seriousness of this issue and informed them of other actions that have been working against depopulation with the main European officials responsible in the matter.
It have been asked to everybody: a greater allocation of funds, as they should be applied in full to those activities that have proven their ability to reverse the process of economic and demographic decline that extends through Teruel, Soria and Cuenca – the most extremely unpopulated areas of Southern Europe – and also many other European territories.
The model to be followed is the one that has been implemented in the regions of Northern Sweden and Finland and especially in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland where, with a focus and appropriate practices, they have managed to invert the process of depopulation and economic abandonment, increasing the population, rejuvenating it and becoming one of the most innovative and dynamic regions of the European Union.
The problem of depopulation is neither new nor exclusive to these three Spanish provinces, but the greater gravity and necessity of taking urgent measures for Teruel, Soria and Cuenca is well recognized in different documents, including the GEOSPECS report emanated from a request of the European Commission itself; the Association Agreement between Spain and the European Union 2014-2020; the Operational Program of the ERDF of Aragon 2014-2020 and the agreements and pronouncements of institutions such as the Congress of Deputies, the Senate of Spain, the parliaments of Aragon, Castile and Leon and Castilla la Mancha or the Provincial Councils of Teruel, Soria And Cuenca.