Maácz, MiklósThe Current Directions of the EU's Rural Development Policy and their Appearance in the Hungarian CAP Strategic Plan

Maácz, Miklós

Keywords: research, rural development, rural policy, Common Agricultural Policy, local development JEL: Q18, R11, R58

Reflecting on the keynote study ("The place and role of rural development in development policy" (Goda-Hamza-Mezei-Rácz, 2022)) published in the 66th issue of Gazdálkodás, the article summarizes where, according to the author, the European Union's rural development policy is headed today, primarily based on the contents of the documents outlining the long-term vision of the EU's rural areas. It then shows how the new directions will appear in 2023-27 in the Hungarian Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan. It reviews the new directions presented by the European Commission's announcement Long-term vision for rural areas of the EU (Long-term vision for rural areas: for stronger, connected, resilient, prosperous EU rural areas - Commission Communication, 2021) and the Rural Pact and the rural development action plan based on it. It can be gleaned from the documents that, in addition to the CAP, other EU and national sources must increasingly play a role in financing the strong, connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas defined as the goal of rural areas. At the same time, the CAP strategic plans of the member countries hardly contain any resources for developments in rural areas that are not related to agriculture. As a result, the issue of rural development necessitates the use of mechanisms that go beyond the policies and the EU and national bodies responsible for them, which is a significant challenge for all actors based on implementation experience so far. The Long-term vision, as well as the interventions based on it, consistently emphasize the importance of local governance, a participatory approach, social innovation and networking, which are considered essential for the implementation of effective rural development. Perhaps the most important task of the rural development action plan would be to present the development of the countryside as a unified policy and to provide resources for this, even from different EU and non-EU funds, but in any case, in a coordinated manner. So far, we can see few signs of cooperation between EU funds and the possibility of financing projects from multiple sources. The problem is at the EU level, as the legislation governing the funds is not coordinated effectively, and during implementation, the paper-certain procedures of the paying agencies always come to the fore, as opposed to flexibility, which is particularly important for small-scale community developments. The failure of CLLD (Community-led local development) is also telling, which was already created in the previous budget period as a tool for urban-rural cooperation, but no longer is included in any Hungarian Operational Program (OP) from 2021. Consequently, as the only tool for local community development is thus LEADER (Liaison Entre Actions pour le Development de l'Economie Rurale) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), which finances it, remained. Accordingly, almost exclusively DG AGRI and agricultural ministries and agricultural researchers participate in the events of the Rural Development Pact or in the workshops and projects that establish them. At the local level, however, there are several encouraging examples, e.g. LEADER local action groups successfully combine projects financed from various EU and domestic sources. With this in mind, the toolkit included in the action plan related to the Long-term Vision, which shows at the local level what funds can be applied for in a given period, can be a good basis for expanding rural support opportunities. The article presents the appearance of the goals of the Long-term Vision in the Hungarian CAP Strategic Plan through two interventions, which carry the possibility of promoting social innovation, these are the Smart Village and the Social Enterprise measures. The most important conclusion of the article is that the theory and practice of rural development are separated from each other, the goals of the Rural Development Pact, which contains the desired general goals, and the CAP strategic plans that make them available overlap only to a small extent and multifid solutions are not yet able to bridge the gap.