The EU Rural Action Plan Explained 

A farm - Rural environment

Rural areas are the lifeblood of Europe, serving as stewards of our natural environment, producers of essential food and resources, and custodians of rich cultural traditions. However, these regions also face unique challenges, including declining populations, limited infrastructure, and restricted access to services and opportunities. Recognizing these disparities, the European Commission unveiled the EU Rural Action Plan in March. This comprehensive strategy serves as a roadmap for ensuring the sustainability, adaptability, and prosperity of rural Europe for generations to come.

Building on a Strong Foundation: The Role of CAP and Cohesion Policy

The EU Rural Action Plan doesn’t exist in isolation. It builds upon two existing pillars of EU support for rural development:

  • The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): A cornerstone of EU rural development efforts, CAP promotes sustainable agriculture, safeguards natural resources, and bolsters rural economies. It achieves this through initiatives such as enhancing competitiveness, investing in infrastructure, and supporting diversification in rural areas. By fostering innovation and collaboration, CAP plays a vital role in ensuring the vitality of rural communities.
  • The Cohesion Policy: Working hand-in-hand with CAP, the Cohesion Policy aims to bridge economic and social gaps between regions. It funnels investments towards critical sectors like infrastructure, education, and employment, with a particular focus on less developed areas. The EU Rural Action Plan strategically integrates these existing policies to maximise their impact on rural development.

Delving Deeper: The EU Rural Action Plan Explained


The EU Rural Action Plan, also known as the European Commission’s Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, is a multifaceted framework designed to address the specific hurdles faced by rural communities across the European Union. It orchestrates a range of policies, programs, and initiatives aimed at cultivating sustainable rural development and elevating the standard of living in these regions.

Key to Success: Effective Coordination and Stakeholder Engagement

The ambitious goals outlined in the EU Rural Action Plan hinge on three crucial factors:

  • Effective Coordination: Successful implementation requires seamless collaboration between national, regional, and local authorities. This ensures that policies and programs are tailored to the specific needs of each rural area.
  • Adequate Funding: The EU provides financial support for rural development initiatives through various mechanisms, including the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF). These resources are instrumental in enabling Member States to translate the plan’s vision into reality.
  • Sustained Commitment: Long-term success depends on the unwavering commitment of all stakeholders, including policymakers, local communities, businesses, and NGOs. Continued engagement is essential for overcoming challenges and achieving lasting impact.

Flexibility and Empowerment: A Bottom-Up Approach


The EU Rural Action Plan recognizes the diverse needs and priorities of different rural regions. It avoids a “one-size-fits-all” approach, instead advocating for a bottom-up strategy. This empowers local communities to take ownership of their development trajectories. By actively engaging local residents in decision-making processes, the plan fosters solutions that are deeply rooted in the specific context of each region.

The Four Pillars of the EU Rural Action Plan

The action plan encompasses a range of strategic objectives organised under four main pillars:

  • Strengthening Rural Areas: This pillar focuses on empowering communities, ensuring access to essential services, promoting social innovation, and fostering spatial planning strategies that engage youth and revitalise rural spaces.
  • Enhancing Connectivity in Rural Areas: Efforts here prioritise improving sustainable transportation options and advancing digitalization. This includes investments in infrastructure, technology, and skill development programs to bridge the digital divide in rural areas.
  • Building Resilience in Rural Areas: Measures under this pillar aim to bolster environmental, climatic, and social resilience. This involves preserving ecosystems, improving soil health, and promoting opportunities for women, young people, and vulnerable populations.
  • Fostering Prosperity in Rural Areas: The plan supports the social economy, addresses the unique needs of young people, promotes the bioeconomy (a sustainable economic model based on renewable biological resources), and provides assistance to producer organisations and groups.

Shared Goals: A Vision for the Future

The EU Rural Action Plan is not just a top-down directive; it represents a shared vision for the future of rural Europe. Emerging from extensive consultations with diverse rural residents, ten shared goals encapsulate the collective aspirations of rural communities and stakeholders by 2040:

  • Create Attractive Rural Spaces: Leveraging unique local potential to address global challenges and enhance the quality of life in rural areas.
  • Foster Collaborative Governance: Utilise multi-level governance approaches that tailor strategies to specific locations and leverage urban-rural interdependencies.
  • Rural Areas: Providers and Beneficiaries: Ensure rural areas serve as providers of food security, economic opportunities, and high-quality goods and services for society, while retaining a fair share of the value generated. This two-way approach recognizes rural areas as essential contributors and ensures they reap the benefits of their production.

OpenAgri: Contributing to a Thriving Rural Future

Hill with a church

The OpenAgri project aligns seamlessly with the goals outlined in the EU Rural Action Plan. By developing Open Source Agricultural Digital Solutions (OS ADSs), OpenAgri empowers rural communities with accessible digital tools that can optimise farm management practices, improve resource efficiency, and promote sustainable agriculture.

These open-source tools directly contribute to several aspects of the Rural Action Plan:

  • Strengthening Rural Areas: By equipping farmers with knowledge and data-driven decision-making capabilities, OpenAgri empowers rural communities and fosters innovation at the local level.
  • Enhancing Connectivity in Rural Areas: OpenAgri’s digital solutions bridge the digital divide in rural areas, ensuring that farmers have access to essential information and communication technologies.
  • Building Resilience in Rural Areas: OpenAgri’s support for sustainable agricultural practices contributes to environmental resilience and fosters climate-smart agriculture.
  • Fostering Prosperity in Rural Areas: By improving farm efficiency and productivity, OpenAgri empowers rural businesses to compete more effectively and contribute to economic growth in rural regions.

In conclusion, the EU Rural Action Plan presents a comprehensive strategy for revitalising rural Europe. By aligning with this vision and empowering rural communities through open-source innovation, the OpenAgri project plays a vital role in fostering a brighter future for rural areas.

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