The Network of Sparsely Populated Areas of Southern Europe has participated in the meeting of the rural revitalization group organized by the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) to transmit first-hand the needs and expectations of the depopulated provinces.
Brussels, March 31, 2022. The SSPA Network – founded by CEOE CEPYME Cuenca, FOES and CEOE Teruel – has shared its vision with the European Network for Rural Development in order to show the needs and expectations of the sparsely populated provinces of the southern Europe, visualizing in turn its work and its collaboration with other actors to reverse this situation.
This invitation is part of the vision for rural areas for 2040 that the European Commission presented in June 2021 and that proposes a series of actions, flagship initiatives and tools with the ambition of promoting the revitalization of rural areas, including the creation of a Rural Revitalization Platform which should be a one-stop shop for rural communities, project owners and authorities to collaborate.
In this sense, and to help shape the future platform, the ENRD has invited the SSPA Network and other actors from European rural territories to participate in the debate, share their visions and opinions on what this tool should include to support the design of rural revitalization policies.
During the intervention, way of working, collaborating with other actors in the territory were the main aspects, as well as the work carried out in recent years in different areas: state aid, Map 174 presented in 2020 and different projects in which it is working on behalf of the business confederations of Cuenca, Soria and Teruel, especially in terms of solutions to the employment needs of companies in these provinces. The coordinator of the SSPA Network, Sara Bianchi, has highlighted the need to address rural revitalization in a comprehensive manner, involving citizens and the actors of the territory who best know their needs and problems. She has also insisted on the need for a tool that facilitates citizens’ access to European information and that unifies the possibilities of European financing.
Thanks to the interventions of experts such as the Network of Sparsely Populated Areas of Southern Europe, the members of the ENCR have begun a reflection on the future Rural Dynamization Platform, as well as the key elements and characteristics to revitalize the areas affected by the loss population, aging and lack of economic opportunities.
The Business Confederations of Cuenca and Teruel have been accredited within the framework of the new Erasmus+ Program so that seven Vocational Training Institutes from the two provinces can work on a joint plan and organize mobility activities abroad.
Cuenca and Teruel, March 8, 2022. The Confederations of Entrepreneurs of Cuenca and Teruel have just achieved the KA120 accreditation for coordinators of mobility consortia in the field of Vocational Training for the new Erasmus + program, granted by the Spanish Service for Internationalization of Education (SEPIE), belonging to the Ministry of Universities.
This accreditation will allow the students and teachers of these centers to participate in European educational projects through stays or exchanges between 2022 and 2027. Thus, the students will be able to develop their linguistic competence and learn about the culture of other countries while the teaching staff will come into contact with other work methodologies that improve the quality of teaching.
The granting of the Erasmus+ Accreditation for the students of these institutes entails broadening their horizons of academic and personal training through stays and exchanges abroad, a possibility that is often excluded for centers located in unpopulated provinces.
The institutes may offer the opportunity for professional and personal development to students, professors and other educational personnel with activities that are competitive and attractive. For accredited organizations, this opportunity is key for the development of the territory and for the future of education in these provinces, since the exchange of educational experiences concludes in the adoption of good practices that improve the day-to-day reality of the centers participants.
7 educational centers in the provinces of Cuenca and Teruel are part of the consortium promoted by the CEOE.
CIFP BAJO ARAGÓN – Alcañiz (Teruel)
CPIFP ESCUELA DE HOSTELERIA Y TURISMO TERUEL – Teruel
I.E.S. LA HONTANILLA – Tarancón (Cuenca)
IES FERNANDO LÁZARO CARRETE – Utrillas (Teruel)
IES FRANCÉS DE ARANDA – Teruel
IES JORGE MANRIQUE – Motilla del Palancar (Cuenca) IES PEDRO MERCEDES – Cuenca
This comparison in the regulation with the uninhabited territories of northern Europe, represents another very important step by the European Commission in favor of Soria, Cuenca and Teruel because with it, from the community legality, the commitment of Europe in the application is reinforced of operating aids
Cuenca, Soria, Teruel, December 9, 2021. FOES, CEOE CEPYME Cuenca and CEOE Teruel celebrate that their intense lobbying work continues to yield results, after learning that the proposal for the new aid exemption regulation submitted for public consultation by the of the European Commission includes the consideration of the three Spanish provinces as “very sparsely populated areas”, which would represent their definitive comparison with the most sparsely populated territories of Sweden, Finland and Norway and would reinforce their condition as provinces that benefit from operating aid.
To achieve this important advance, the employers’ associations of Cuenca, Soria and Teruel have presented to the European Commission contributions to the public consultation regarding the revision of Regulation (EU) 651/2014 in order to reinforce the new wording of article 15, section 3 , which definitively eliminates the differences in the current legal regime between “sparsely populated areas” and “very sparsely populated areas”.
“Shield” operating aids
This modification guarantees that both Cuenca, Soria and Teruel, as well as the rest of the European NUTS3 that show densities below 12.5 inhabitants/km2, reinforce their status in matters such as the receipt of operating aid aimed at reducing the current expenses of their business fabric, since the equalization of both categories in the future regulation would be an additional guarantee in the face of hypothetical changes from 2027 in the state aid guidelines for regional purposes, reaffirming the maintenance of operating aid from that date.
If the new wording of the regulation is confirmed, the three business organizations will complete a two-year period of joint work with the regional governments of Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León, a public-private alliance that has resulted in recognition in the highest community instances of the depopulation that affects the rural territories of Southern Europe as one of its priorities in terms of territorial cohesion.
Demographics of “sparsely populated areas” and “very sparsely populated areas”
The contributions sent by the SSPA Network focus on demonstrating, based on statistical data and rigorous legal arguments, that the three Spanish provinces suffer demographic disadvantages as severe and prolonged over time as those suffered by the hitherto “very little populated” of the Nordic countries, thus following the line of work that the business lobby has been maintaining since its creation almost 10 years ago.
According to data from 2018, the provinces of Cuenca, Soria and Teruel showed, respectively, a population density of just 11.7, 8.7 and 9 inhabitants/km2, resulting not only in the three least densely populated provinces in Spain, but also ratios of population even lower than those of seven Nordic regions:
• Pohjois-Karjala (Finland): 9.2 inhabitants/km2
• Etelä-Savo (Finland): 10.2 inhabitants/km2
• Dalarnas län (Sweden): 10.2 inhabitants/km2
• Pohjois-Pohjanmaa (Finland): 11.2 inhabitants/km2
• Västernorrlands län (Sweden): 11.4 inhabitants/km2
• Keski-Pohjanmaa (Finland): 13.7 inhabitants/km2
• Pohjois-Savo (Finland): 14.7 inhabitants/km2
The European Commission urges the Spanish State to grant aid to companies in Soria, Teruel and Cuenca from 2022 in compliance with the guidelines of the European Commission so that they receive bonuses as sparsely populated areas, in the same way as those located in the Northern Europe (Norway, Finland and Sweden).
Madrid, November 18, 2021. The Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (CEPYME) asks the Government to specify the incentives for companies to curb depopulation, contained in the General State Budget for 2022 in the corresponding Additional Provision. In this way, the Confederation joins the demands of the business organizations of Cuenca, Soria and Teruel so that the aid that the European Commission has recognized for companies in these areas for being sparsely populated is applied as soon as possible.
At the press conference held this morning, the presidents of CEPYME, Gerardo Cuerva, of the Federation of Business Organizations of Soria (FOES), Santiago Aparicio, of CEOE Teruel, Juan Ciércoles, and of CEOE CEPYME Cuenca, David Peña, presented the serious situation in these regions as a result of depopulation and the need to work to stop this process.
All of them have coincided in emphasizing that companies are a fundamental actor in successfully settling the population in the territory with expectations. Likewise, they consider that compensating for the competitive disadvantage that companies from these three provinces currently present is crucial to achieve this, since it will strengthen the resistance of companies located in disadvantaged areas and will act as a catalyst for new investments, also forming a competitive opportunity for our country, since it would place these Spanish provinces in a similar situation to other 18 territories of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Greece, Croatia and Latvia that have this competitive advantage.
After long and intense work by the business organizations mentioned, supported by the Regional Governments, the provinces of Soria, Teruel and Cuenca have been recognized by the European Commission as sparsely populated areas, presenting a population density of less than 12.5 Inhabitants per square kilometer. This has meant that in the revision of the State aid Guidelines for regional purposes, these areas are considered as disadvantaged areas, which, in turn, allows the granting of discounts to companies located in said provinces up to a maximum of 20%. of their labor costs.
To achieve this recognition, in addition to proving that these territories have serious demographic disadvantages, in their allegations they have proven that the fact of receiving this aid does not imply competition for the rest of the companies in the country, since they have a very limited productive fabric that it only accounts for 0.83% of the national GDP and 0.85% of all companies in Spain.
Both CEPYME and the provincial organizations point out that these discounts are an opportunity for the country as a whole, since operating aid is only applicable in very specific areas of Europe and it would not be understandable for Spain to miss out on this important competitive advantage, which is a tool extraordinary to attract investments and companies that, otherwise, will end up establishing themselves in other European territories.
The SSPA Network
CEOE Teruel, FOES and CEOE CEPYME Cuenca have worked intensively together until the European Commission recognized the serious demographic problem of these Spanish provinces and included them in the Provincial State Aid Guidelines.
For this, the three business organizations founded the network of Sparsely Populated Areas of Southern Europe (in English Southern Sparsely Populated Areas, SSPA), whose main objective is to make sparsely populated territories attractive territories in which to live, work, invest and grow , ensuring the future of these areas.