Many rural areas in the European Union suffer from structural problems such as a lack of attractive employment opportunities, skill shortages, under-investment in connectivity, infrastructures and essential services, as well as youth drain. It is fundamental to strengthen the socio-economic fabric in those areas, particularly through job creation and generational renewal, bringing jobs and growth to rural areas, promoting social inclusion, and the development of ‘smart villages’ across the European countryside. New rural value chains such as renewable energy, the emerging bio-economy, the circular economy, and various types of tourism activities can offer good growth and job creation for rural areas.
EU countries have the possibility to include tourism-related investments in their Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) strategic plans. Such support could, for instance, include interventions linked to territorial economic development and rural infrastructure, the renewal of villages and/or actions aimed at the conservation of small-scale built heritage (chapels, bridges, public amenities), construction and modernisation of tourism information centres, visitor information, and other leisure, recreational and/or sporting activities.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD or so-called Second Pillar) supports the vibrancy and economic viability of rural communities through rural development measures. These reinforce the market measures and income supports of the CAP with strategies and funding to strengthen the EU’s agri-food and forestry sectors, environmental sustainability, and the wellbeing of rural areas in general.
The three long-term rural development objectives for the EU include
The EAFRD is the funding instrument of the Common Agricultural Policy that supports rural development strategies and projects. For the CAP, the allocations for the 2021-2027 MFF and 2021-2022 EURI (EAFRD - Next Generation EU) amount to around €387 billion in current prices. The EURI (EAFRD-Next Generation EU) budget will be spent on the implementation of the current Rural Development Programmes, at the latest by the end of 2025 (n+3). The 2023-2027 CAP allocation will mainly be spent on the implementation of the CAP strategic plans. Its rural development component (EAFRD) can be implemented at the latest by the end of 2029 (n+2 rule is applicable). While the European Commission approves and monitors rural-development programmes (RDPs), decisions regarding the selection of projects and the granting of payments are handled at national or regional levels.
Furthermore, through financial instruments, the EAFRD acts as a source for loans, microcredits, guarantees and equities, available to recipients in agriculture, forestry and rural areas who are undertaking financially viable projects that support the priorities of the EAFRD.
Project Title: Diversifying a farm’s income by investing in agro-tourism (Arcevia, Italy)
Description: to diversify the farm's income, RDP support was used to renovate a 19th-century house to offer hospitality in six apartments, with a total of 24 beds. The entrepreneur envisaged hosting tourists for at least four months a year, to provide him with a significant income flow, which will compensate for the years when olive production is low.
EU contribution: €80,736.30
Level of EU funding: n/a
Link to project: Diversification in agro-tourism (europa.eu)
Project Title: Chevetogne - combining a wetland ecosystem observation area with social tourism
Description: The project of the Chevetogne provincial park consisted of the rehabilitation and landscaping of part of the old caravanning area bordering the ponds. Over three hectares, this area was restored into wetland, a wetland ecosystem observation area, and a biodiversity laboratory. The restored area will accommodate a few picnic facilities and two play areas for children. Additional development will extend the walking trail for people with reduced mobility.
EU contribution: €387,000
Level of EU funding: n/a
Links to project: