The EU’s rural development policy helps the rural areas of the EU to meet the wide range of economic, environmental and social challenges of the 21st century. Frequently called "the second pillar” of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), it complements the system of direct payments to farmers and measures to manage agricultural markets (the so-called "first pillar"). Rural Development policy shares a number of objectives with other European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).
The EU's rural development policy is funded through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) worth €100 billion from 2014-2020, with each EU country receiving a financial allocation for the 7-year period. This will leverage a further €61 billion of public funding in the Member States.
There are 118 different rural development programmes (RDP) in the 28 Member States for this period, with 20 single national programmes and 8 Member States opting to have two or more (regional) programmes.
EU framework for rural development programmes
Member States and regions draw up their rural development programmes based on the needs of their territories and addressing at least four of the following six common EU priorities:
- fostering knowledge transfer and innovation in agriculture, forestry and rural areas;
- enhancing the viability and competitiveness of all types of agriculture, and promoting innovative farm technologies and sustainable forest management;
- promoting food chain organisation, animal welfare and risk management in agriculture;
- restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry;
- promoting resource efficiency and supporting the shift toward a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy in the agriculture, food and forestry sectors;
- promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas.
The rural development priorities are broken down into "focus areas". For example, the priority on resource efficiency includes focus areas "reducing greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from agriculture" and "fostering carbon conservation and sequestration in agriculture and forestry". Within their RDPs, Member States or regions set quantified targets against these focus areas. They then set out which measures they will use to achieve these targets and how much funding they will allocate to each measure. At least 30% of funding for each RDP must be dedicated to measures relevant for the environment and climate change and at least 5% to LEADER. See more on the expected achievements on the ESIF Open Data Platform and in the factsheets for each RDP.
Rural development as part of a broader EU investment strategy
From 2014 onwards, Member States have to establish a partnership agreement which requires a coordination of all EU structural investment funding (ESIF) within each country. The European Commission and its Member States are also working with the European Investment Bank (EIB) on establishing Financial Instruments under the EAFRD. The implementation and impact of the rural development policy is monitored and evaluated in detail. More details of individual projects can be found via the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD), the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) network and the EU budget for results website.