The Spanish government will allocate about €10 billion of the total EU ‘post-COVID-19’ recovery funds approved for the Iberian country, to combat rural depopulation. EURACTIV’s partner EuroEFE reports.
The government wants to help the country’s most depopulated areas, such as Castilla y León or Aragón, and boost their economic contribution to the Spanish GDP, currently at 30%, improving the situation of those regions of the so-called “España vaciada” (emptied rural Spain).
In the last 70 years, many regions in 23 provinces of Castilla y León, Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Galicia, Andalucía, and La Rioja (the bulk of the depopulated Spain), have lost approximately 50% of their economic and demographic value, according to a recent report by Funcas think tank.
To date, the best examples in the EU are France and Germany, whose rural areas contribute 40% and 50% of their national GDPs respectively, according to data released by Spain’s ministry for ecological transition and demographic challenge.
“We see (in Spain) a biased (approach) that translates into a concentration of income and wealth in three or four major metropolitan areas versus the loss in much of inland Spain that provides environmental services and food to urban areas”, stressed Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic challenge.
Experts in the Spanish government have warned about excessive ageing and “masculinisation” in rural areas, adding the need to increase job opportunities for women and encourage a generational relay in the agriculture sector.
To reach that goal, the Spanish government, a coalition of the socialist party (PSOE) and left-wing United We Can (Unidas-Podemos), has launched a series of initiatives that will be financed with the €140 billion approved for Spain in the framework of the EU Recovery Fund, which is divided into loans and subsidies.
Ecological transition and digitalisation
The €10 billion that Spain wants to allocate for the most depopulated regions – in particular small municipalities – come from the €80 billion in subsidies that the country hopes to receive between this year and 2023.
The plan aims to promote a fair and beneficial ecological transition for rural areas, to place them at the forefront of the ecological transition, including energy rehabilitation of public and private buildings; sustainable energy pilot projects; a sanitation plan and redesign of the water system, and boosting the digitisation of rural areas.
Digital and professional training plans will be promoted in 3,000 municipalities; the administration will be brought closer to the inhabitants of these towns, and public services will be strengthened through digital channels, the plan states.
There will be a commitment to offer a network of care plans for the elderly, and create new job opportunities at the local level.
[Edited by Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny]