The 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015) outlines an action program in 17 key objectives aimed at “building dynamic, sustainable, innovative and people-centered economies” in order to “promote intercultural understanding, tolerance, mutual respect, together with an ethic of global citizenship and shared responsibility“. In the political and institutional European Union integration, socio-economic and environmental sustainability is considered central in the territorial policy: the European Fund for Regional Development (ERDF, 1975) is the main supranational financial instrument for cooperation, today focused on research, digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as for the enhancement of local specificities, with “integrated actions” coordinated by urban bodies.
Since the 1990s, the increasing complexity of economic interdependence, greater responsiveness due to climate change, administrative decentralization, have imposed regional policies inspired by the “think globally, act locally“: first the Maastricht Treaty (1993), defining as pillars political representation (Committee of the Regions) and the reduction of territorial imbalances (Cohesion Fund), then, the strategies of Europe 2020, “for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth“.
In 2014-20, the EU has allocated funds for regional cohesion and sustainable growth (accounting for 34% and 37% of the total budget), focusing on expertise and innovation in production processes: in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) , investments in training (4 million beneficiary farmers), support for rural areas (infrastructures and ICT), safety and quality (new regulatory regimes), have strengthened a sector with about 11 million companies and over 44 million employees in the whole agri-food chain.
In the multi-annual financial framework 2021-27, proposed by the European Commission last May, however, a reversal of the trend seems to be moving forward. “The cutting of funds for agriculture in the EU budget (about 5%, ed) – says Roberto Moncalvo, President Coldiretti – is unsustainable for European businesses and citizens who for 90% support agricultural policy at the level community for the decisive role it plays in the environment, territory and health“. Demographic and climate factors impose an efficient management of natural resources and participatory development models (such as the LEADER approach): the European rural development network has focused on social sustainability, involving many immigrants living in Europe in activities and services promoted by local action groups (LAGs) in host communities.
As emerges from the conclusions of the Cohesify project (part of the Horizon 2020 program), a positive impact of information, both on social networks and media news, about the appreciation of cohesion policies “improves the perception of the benefits of European integration“.
Article published on eunews.it