A majority of residents in rural regions in Germany are satisfied with their quality of life. The situation is less positive when it comes to jobs, digitalisation and public transport links, a study commissioned by the agriculture ministry published on Monday (1 November) found. EURACTIV Germany reports.
According to the study, 80% of respondents living in the countryside agreed that rural regions are attractive places to live. On top of that, 80% were also “basically satisfied” with local shopping facilities, 75% with medical care, and three-quarters of residents said they would like to stay there.
However, according to Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, who also sees her ministry as a “ministry of economic affairs for rural regions” with the task of ensuring equal living conditions between urban and rural areas, much has already been achieved through support measures.
“In many areas of public service, we have promoted exemplary projects that have become beacons and from which other municipalities and communities also benefit,” said Klöckner.
From the EU side, money is available to promote rural development from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), which forms the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and is co-financed by the respective member state.
In Germany, the federal states are responsible for how EAFRD funds are used and which projects are funded. In the funding period from 2014 to 2020, this amounted to around €2.4 billion annually across the country.
According to the federal agriculture ministry, around 16% of these funds went to rural development measures and an additional 12% to promote model agricultural projects.
Klöckner acknowledged, however, that “there is still a lot to be done” in the coming legislative period, which will start once a coalition government between the Social Democrats, the Greens and the liberal FDP is formed.
A good working environment
The study also found that less than half of the respondents valued rural regions as a good working environment.
Therefore, adequate jobs and value creation in rural areas must be further improved through “tailor-made solutions”, Klöckner said.
There is also a need for action in digitalisation, as only about 60% of those surveyed rated internet provision in rural areas as good or very good.
Although Klöckner pointed to the outgoing government already providing €1.1 billion to improve network coverage, the EU Commission highlighted “significant gaps” in access to broadband services in rural regions in its recommendations for Germany’s national CAP strategic plan.
Those surveyed also mentioned public transport links in rural areas as being problematic.
While about 70% of the inhabitants in metropolitan areas use public transport, only about 40% do so in very rural areas. One-third of the respondents in rural areas were satisfied with the frequency of local bus and rail services.
In a recently published statement, an expert group on rural development in the agriculture ministry also concluded that the incoming federal government must consider rural areas’ concerns “more strongly than before”.
To remain sustainable, rural areas must be compatible with the lifestyles of young people, in particular, the paper also states. In addition to measures for the development of villages, this mainly requires the creation and safeguarding of highly and low-skilled jobs, the experts added.
[Edited by Daniel Eck/ Alice Taylor]