During the first half of 2021 the European Commission is expected to publish its document on the “long-term vision for rural areas”.
The long-term vision for rural areas is coordinated by Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, European Commissioner for Democracy and Demography. Janusz Wojciechowski, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, and Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms will also collaborate to develop the vision.
To this end, a public consultation was opened at the end of July, available at the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12525-Rural-development -long-term-vision-for-rural-areas .
Therefore, the SSPA Network has shared with the Šuica cabinet and published in the consultation its first recommendations for a long-term vision that encompasses all the necessary dimensions to successfully address the demographic challenge for rural areas, particularly sparsely populated areas and territories with severe and permanent demographic handicaps.
In particular, it includes:
1. A legal and operational definition of unpopulated areas;
2. New thematic approach for the diversification of economic activities.
3. Better coordination: multi-level governance and territorial agencies.
4. Connectivity and telecommunications.
5. Rural impact.
6. Changing the image of rural areas.
To read our detailed recommendations, see “Long-term vision for rural areas”.
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. “
The Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations CEOE and SSPA network, the adovacy group of the sparsely populated areas of Southern Europe, have presented the Report “A differentiated taxation for the progress of the depopulated territories in Spain“.
This report has been prepared by a group of experts from the University of Valladolid, coordinated by the Doctor in Economics José Antonio Herce San Miguel, and funded from the SSPA network with local action groups funds.
Previously SSPA has delivered the report to the Commissioner of the Government in front of the Demographic Challenge, Isaura Leal, so that be taken into account in the national strategy. They have told her that if measures of fiscal reduction can be implemented to combat depopulation, and for this, only political will is needed.
They have conveyed that if policies and specific measures capable of correcting this situation are not implemented immediately, the imbalance between urban and rural areas will continue to grow to the extreme, with the European Union suffering the inexorable loss of a fundamental part of social values, cultural, economic and environmental factors associated with rural areas. The SSPA network is convinced that this situation can be reversed, as has been demonstrated in other parts of Europe such as Scotland, explaining the reasons why a differentiated fiscal policy is needed and the most effective and efficient measures to achieve positive results.
This report presents a fiscal proposal for the repopulation of a territory that in the report denominates like the “Demographic Ultraperiphery”, with the objective to create the incentives that avoided the depopulation and foment the repopulation. The justification, assessment and socioeconomic impact of a tax proposal for repopulation has been presented, as well as the potential effects of a series of fiscal stimuli of a certain magnitude applied to natural and legal persons of all the territories affected by the depopulation and those that decide to settle in them.
This report assesses the legal reserve, since territorially differentiated tax incentives must pass a strict examination based on the provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) to avoid being considered “State aid”. There are precedents in Spain and in other countries adaptable to the case of depopulation, such as the Economic and Fiscal Regime of the Canary Islands that is reflected in the Spanish Constitution as an “Ultraperipheral Region” (due to its geographical distance.) These exceptions, reinterpreted in the plan of the low density and high population dispersion, are those that would help to meet the regulatory challenge posed by the fiscal exceptionality for the depopulated Spain that is defended in this report.
The legal analysis that has been carried out in this report concludes that the recognition of a special Fiscal Zone for the unpopulated territories could have an appropriate interpretation, and that a reasoned request from the Government of Spain could initiate a process towards its authorization by the EU. They have also analyzed that the cost to the state of these differentiated fiscal measures would be minimal and could recover in the medium term with the increase in economic activity that would be generated in these territories.
It is a key moment for the rural environment and the depopulated zones of our country, and this report is the result of the concern for the progressive and unstoppable depopulation of a large part of the Spanish territory, and of the irrevocable commitment of the SSPA network towards the reversion of said process of depopulation providing rigorous proposals. This network will soon make presentations of the report in Cuenca, Soria and Teruel with discussion tables to give more details and analyze them with the whole society.
This week the MEPs that make up the Regional Development Commission within the European Parliament will discuss some of the most significant amendments for the most unpopulated areas of Europe, and will decide which will be incorporated into the document on future EU policy, which It will define the funds and concrete policies to combat depopulation.
It is a crucial moment for the unpopulated territories of Southern Europe as the European Parliament is in full debate to define and specify the next financial framework, which will define the funds and concrete policies to fight against depopulation
The SSPA network, formed by the provinces of Cuenca, Soria, Teruel, Lika-Senj and Euritania, as a European advocacy group has reviewed the amendments tabled and has contacted some of the MEPs who are defending amendments that support depopulated territories. Its objective is that in the new programming period of the European Funds they promote concrete policies and legislative measures specifically designed to reverse the serious demographic and socio-economic deterioration suffered by the less populated rural territories of Europe.
This European advocacy group has drafted a document on the amendments that are within its proposals and those that support with some revision, and is available on its website.
In a press conference, they highlighted some that they agree on such as the amendment n. 900 that proposes to force governments to fully address the demographic challenge with a global vision; amendment n. 1965 places the focus on the co-financing percentages by proposing that they be extended to the provinces (NUTS 3) with a population density of less than 12.5 inhabitants / km2; on amendment n. 2022 have highlighted that seeks to ensure an extra allocation in the distribution of funds per capita to provinces of less than 12.5 inhabitants per km2, a small amount in the EU budget.
Regarding the possibility of taking into account the depopulation by municipalities, something very important for Spain, the coordinator of the SSPA Sara Bianchi has declared “in June the European Commission told us that there is no official data at European level of the municipalities (LAU2), and this possibility opens a long debate and divides the efforts, while the provinces (NUT3) are recognized despite the fact that until now no concrete measures have been taken for them. ”
Bianchi stressed that “as important as obtaining specific funds is to be clear about how to invest them, it is necessary to have a clear strategy, involving all agents and having a medium and long-term vision”.
Santiago Aparicio, president of the Federation of Sorian Business Organizations (FOES) has stated that “the SSPA network is redoubling its efforts at the moment given that this is the starting point of the negotiations for the new programming period of the cohesion policy where, without a doubt, sparsely populated areas must be recognized. “