The future of the EU budget and, thus, of the living conditions in rural areas of Romania was the main theme of a double Citizens’ Dialogue with Commissioners Crețu and Hogan in the University of Cluj-Napoca, one of the most important places in Transsylvania.
Over 200 students and researchers, farmers, mayors and interested citizens discussed with the two Commissioners what could be done to turn the depopulation of rural regions around and support the production of high quality food. Both Commissioners were accompanied on stage by the Romanian Minister for agriculture, Mr. Daea, and the local Member of the European Parliament, Mr Buda.
The Citizens’ Dialogue kicked off with a spontaneous survey of the participants in the room by the moderator, Dan Carbunaru, what people considered as the most important achievements of Romania’s EU membership. Although the audience was more diverse than usual, people felt that solidarity was the most important aspect.
The discussion started with many questions regarding the future of the Common Agricultural Policy. Commissioner Hogan explained that according to the Commission proposal for the next 7-years EU budget agricultural subsidies would be continued. Commissioner Crețu underlined that Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy go hand in hand. She was particularly proud that the Commission had suggested increasing the budget for Romania, Bulgaria and Greece by 10% for the 2021-2027 period.
Many farmers had question regarding high quality products, such as beef or free-range poultry. These referred to subsidies but also to trade agreements. Commissioner Hogan explained that there are already now possibilities to provide funding. Regarding the trade negotiations with the US, but also other markets he underlined that the EU expected that its trade partners respected the high European food quality standards. “Europe is the best destination for food producers. You pay a bit more, but you get also much higher quality.” the Commissioner for agriculture said.
Young people, but also Ms Zoanǎ, the Vice-Chairperson of the European Parliament’s Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development, addressed the issue of depopulation of rural areas in Romania. Possible solutions mentioned by citizens were the strengthening of the rural infrastructure, but also initiatives to bring qualified Romanians back to their home regions, who work in other Member States. Commissioner Crețu emphasized that “broadband and village renewal are the key to increase the attractiveness of rural areas.