The three resulting maps are shown (as “snapshots”) in Map E1. They are reproduced in full
size in the main text of the Draft Final Report (Part B).
An analysis of the typology maps, together with cross-tabulation analysis, provided a useful
“triangulation” of European rural regions. The principal findings were:
o Regions in which the primary sector plays a major role in the local economy are mainly
concentrated in an arc stretching around the eastern and southern edges of the EU27.
o The rest of the European space is characterised by a patchwork of three types of rural area,
Consumption Countryside, Diversified (Secondary) and Diversified (Private Services). Of
these the last seems to be to some extent associated with the most accessible areas.
o Broadly speaking there is a tendency for the Agrarian regions to be relatively low
performers, showing many of the characteristics of the process of socio-economic
“Depletion”. The Diversified (Secondary) regions also tend to be relatively poor performers,
perhaps because they are dependent upon declining manufacturing industries.
o The Consumption Countryside regions and the Diversified (Private Services) group are both
high performers, and likely to continue to “accumulate” in the immediate future.
These are very simple, broad-brush generalisations, at a macro-regional scale, which, of
course, cannot “do justice” to the wealth of local (micro-scale) variation in rural areas across the
ESPON space, or to the infinite number of possible combinations of drivers, opportunities and
constraints. The latter have been explored through case studies in twelve “Exemplar Regions”,
reflecting a wide range of different rural situations.
5. Future Perspectives
The EDORA Future Perspectives exercise adopts a simplified, qualitative, “foresight” approach,
comprising a systematic procedure for scenario development, followed by an expert
assessment of the likely implications for the four Structural types of non-urban regions.
Scenario construction builds upon earlier phases of the project; viewing the meta-narratives as
predominantly incremental processes, into which, during the next decades new, “shocks” will
impose themselves, causing more rapid and radical change. Of the range of potential “shocks”
which may reasonably be anticipated, the most likely and the most influential in a rural context
is climate change. The most important aspect of climate change, about which there is not yet
consensus, is the rapidity with which its impacts (and socio-economic responses) will be
manifested. A second shock is the recent Credit Crunch and ongoing Sovereign Debt Crisis.
This seems likely to influence the nature of the economic governance approach underlying the
policy measures which are developed to meet the challenges of climate change.
The two “external” variables introduced above structure the analysis in the form of two axes
which define four quadrants forming the basis of narrative scenarios of change over the coming
two decades. The first axis stretches between gradual climate change (and responses) at one
extreme, to rapid change at the other. The second (economic governance) axis ranges from
“neo-liberal” to “strongly regulated”. Clearly the two axes are not entirely independent of each
other, laissez faire approaches are more likely if change is gradual, whilst severe and rapid
climate change is likely to spur MS and international agencies into more “top-down” responses.
Scenario 1: Gradual climate change + Deregulated Market Economy
In many ways this is close to a “business as usual” scenario. With the exception of a shift of
agriculture towards the para-productivist model, and a substantial growth in new forms of
energy production, the current processes of change would continue. This would probably be
associated with a continued increase in regional differentiation.
Scenario 2: Gradual climate change + Highly Regulated Economy
In the second scenario the impact of the credit crunch leads to a more cautious and regulated
form of economic governance in which a shortage of capital inhibits both the private and public
sector responses to the gradually emerging climate change effects. Limited mitigation means
that even gradual climate change has significant impacts upon economic activity and quality of
life in rural Europe, resulting in intensified out-migration from agrarian and sparsely populated
regions. Energy costs rise but the development of renewables is modest, leading to an
increasing dependence on nuclear power. Increasing freight costs provide a degree of import
protection, and slow the decline of manufacturing in Europe. Reduced consumer spending and
shortage of capital inhibits the expansion of the tertiary sector.
Scenario 3: Rapid Climate Change + Deregulated Market Economy
Rapid and disruptive climate change attaches a premium to land as a basic resource
underpinning both adaptation and mitigation measures. Food prices rise, renewable energy
production and bio-technology industries expand rapidly. Agricultural production intensifies and
increasingly adopts bio-technology. There is a concentration of control of the (rural) means of
production in corporate hands. The tertiary sector is buoyed up by an expansion of financial
services, and private investments in research and development, although the benefits are
largely restricted to accessible rural areas.
Scenario 4: Rapid Climate Change + Highly Regulated Economy
The rapid onset of climate change results in a coordinated consensus-based public policy
response. There is rapid public investment in new forms of nuclear power and careful regulation
of the use of rural land, to ensure food supplies. There are strong and selective migration flows
from South, East and Central Europe into the North and West, and towards major cities. Public
transport systems, using low/zero emissions technologies lead to compact urban growth. Fossil
fuel use is reserved for food production, whilst cropping is also regulated to reduce the
production of GHGs. The primary and secondary sectors are reinvigorated by the public policy
response focused upon sustainability. The shift in favour of the tertiary sector slows or is
An expert assessment of the implications of the above scenarios for the four Structural types of
rural region established that S1 (Gradual climate change + Deregulated Market Economy) is the
most likely scenario to emerge. There was some degree of consensus that S2 (Gradual climate
change + Highly Regulated Economy) would result in the greatest benefits to rural regions.
6. Options for Policy to Promote Competitiveness and Cohesion in Rural Europe.
The final phase of the project draws some conclusions about policy options. These are
principally derived as logical extensions of the conceptual and empirical analysis. Nevertheless
it is important to keep sight of the existing framework for Cohesion Policy, and its broad
objectives, which derive originally from the Lisbon Agenda (economic competitiveness), the
Gothenburg Agenda (environment), and the inclusion of Territorial Cohesion in the Treaty of
Lisbon (art. 158). More recently the EU2020 document (EC 2010a) has come to the fore as the
context for Cohesion Policy, calling for “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”. This
represents the culmination of a process begun under the ESDP, continued through the
“Territorial Agenda” (COPTA 2007) and more fully explored in the Territorial Cohesion Green
Paper (EC 2008). In essence it involves pursuing balanced regional development through
enabling all regions to develop to their full potential. In this sense it is facilitated by “turning
diversity into strength”.
The conclusions drawn from the conceptual and empirical findings of EDORA suggest that
“rural cohesion policy” should operate at two geographic levels; (i) the macro-level
persistent systematic variation, as revealed, for example, by the EDORA Structural and
Performance typologies, and (ii) the micro-level
, addressing aspatial variations in territorial
assets which constrain localities’ responses to exogenous drivers of change.
Taking these in turn, we may summarise the main conclusions as follows:
(a) Predominantly Rural Remote, Agrarian, and Consumption Countryside regions are likely to
present the strongest challenges for Rural Territorial Cohesion policy in the years to come.
(b) Sectoral Rural Development policy may have some scope for territorial cohesion impacts in
Agrarian regions, (and perhaps Consumption Countryside regions), but is much less likely to
deliver benefits in Diversified regions.
(c) Regional typologies could play an important strategic role in the design and implementation
of carefully targeted horizontal programmes for rural areas; defining objectives, identifying
appropriate forms of intervention for different kinds of context, and perhaps allocating
(d) The findings of the Structural Typology point to economic diversification of Agrarian regions
as one of the key objectives for such targeted horizontal programmes.
(a) Local territorial assets fall into two broad groups. Some are conventional, tangible
resources; land, physical resources, access to markets, built capital, transport infrastructure
i.e. groups of regions spanning several Member States
i.e at a NUTS 3 level or smaller (more homogenous) sub regions.
and so on. Others, such as human and social capital, institutional capacity, or
entrepreneurial culture, are “soft”, (intangible, less amenable to quantification).
(b) Although some of these are subject to broad, macro-scale patterns of variation, the variation
of most is “aspatial” and very localised. Intangible assets generally fall into the second
category. Intangible assets play a particularly important role in facilitating a rural area’s
response to the challenges and opportunities of the New Rural Economy.
(c) Regional variations in key intangible assets can best be accommodated through a neo-
endogenous “local development” approach.
(d) A precondition for the success of such an approach would be the development of better
indicators (perhaps proxies) of intangible assets, and a systematic local/regional auditing
procedure which would facilitate “benchmarking” of regions in this respect.
An aspect of local development which has attracted considerable attention in recent years, (and
hence was highlighted by the specification for EDORA), is territorial cooperation, especially
between urban and rural areas. This theme is touched upon in a wide variety of contexts and
there is a diffuse (academic and policy) literature. From the policy side the revised Territorial
Agenda (Salamin 2011) represents an opportunity to establish guidelines for best practice in
Territorial Cooperation for the meso (Member State) implementation level.
In this respect the EDORA findings point to the desirability of setting aside the concept of urban
areas as the sole drivers and sources growth in regional economies. Rural areas are very much
capable of endogenous dynamics. Two particular aspects of the current literature provide
promising points of departure for appropriate policy: The literature on rural business networks
underlines the importance of “bridging” linkages from rural areas to the wider world as a channel
for new knowledge, market information and so on, and “bonding” linkages within a locality or
region which facilitate the dissemination of innovation. By contrast, a review of literature on food
networks pointed to the benefits of short supply chains and “relocalisation” in terms of retaining
value, enhancement of social capital, and environmental benefits. It is possible that the
relocalisation paradigm could be applied more generally to rural activities.
The investigation of territorial cooperation once again underlined the importance of an
appropriate array of intangible assets as a fundamental precondition of successful local
development. However, although there is a substantial body of knowledge about them, it needs
to be applied specifically to the issue of rural-urban cooperation before such “soft factors” can
gain effective leverage within territorial cohesion policy.
7. Looking ahead
In terms of future research which would extend the “toolbox” of spatial planning, a focus upon
local (micro-level) collaborative planning processes to support the kind of Local Development
policies recommended by EDORA would be extremely valuable. Components of such a project
might include further work on:
o The development of meaningful and comparable indicators, and systematic auditing
procedures to assess regional territorial assets (both tangible and intangible).
o An comparative exploration of best practice in stakeholder engagement and collaborative
dialogue, to facilitate the integration of “bottom up” spatial planning within EU policy.
The starting point of the EDORA project is the recognition that, rather than becoming more
uniform in character, rural Europe is, in many ways, becoming increasingly diverse. This
diversity implies both new challenges and changing opportunities. The overarching aim of the
project is to examine the process of differentiation, in order to better understand how EU and
Member State policy can enable rural areas to build upon their specific potentials to achieve
“smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.” As a first step it is very important that we have a clear
picture of rural Europe and its various development potentials, at the beginning of the 21st
century. The project emphasises the importance of looking beyond the “agrarian” for that
potential, since in the majority of European non-urban regions secondary and tertiary activities
already play a very important role the local economy. Addressing these issues requires a
research approach which fully reflects recent conceptual advances, and constructs hypotheses
derived from contemporary interpretations of the process of rural change in the full range of
European rural environments. At the same time it requires a comprehensive utilisation of
available data sources, so that robust and empirically valid findings can form a firm foundation
for policy recommendations.
Review of the Literature:
- Rural Demography
- Rural Employment
- Rural Business Development
- R-U Relationships
- Cultural Heritage
- Access to Services
- Institutional Capacity
- Farm Structural Change
- Climate Change
Key Future Drivers
Figure 1: The Structure of the EDORA Project
The structure of the EDORA project (Figure 1) was designed to meet these requirements. The
first phase of the project consisted of a literature review in order to establish a conceptual
framework for subsequent empirical analysis, and as a basis for a policy rationale. In the
second phase the evidence base for rural change was explored, both in terms of large scale
patterns, revealed by regional data, and local processes, based upon a case study approach. In
addition Future Perspectives for rural Europe were developed and considered. In the third
phase of the project the conceptual and empirical findings were considered as a basis for an
appropriate rationale for Cohesion Policy for rural areas.
Annex 1 is a compilation of the 28 working papers produced by EDORA. This constitutes the
“Scientific Report” required to accompany the Final Report by the project specification.
2 Contemporary Rural Change in Europe: Key Elements and Meta-
This section summarises the findings of the conceptual phase of the project, including reviews
of 9 themes of rural change, and their subsequent synthesis
2.1 Introduction: The EDORA Conceptual Framework.
As will be evident from the Introduction, the EDORA project has an extremely wide remit;
covering all aspects of rural change (both in the recent past and immediate future), and the full
range of (non-urban) regional environments. At the same time the requirement is to go beyond
description and explanation, with the formulation of recommendations for appropriate policy.
However, from the outset, it is important to make clear that it is not our intention simply to
identify a set of economic activities which currently appear to have potential for growth in rural
areas. Such an approach to “development opportunities” would run a risk of being selective,
partial and ephemeral. Rather we interpret our task as identifying more enduring and more
widely applicable generic issues, which can lead to more systemic approaches. This implies a
need for a conceptual framework which is both inclusive and robust, and which can provide a
solid and consistent rationale for a variety of forms of intervention.
Balancing Specificity and Generalisation.
The widespread recognition of the increasing diversity of rural areas in Europe, combined with
the popularity of neo-endogenous development approaches which build upon local specificities,
means that it is very important that EDORA recognises the fact that all rural areas are in one
way or another unique. This should not, however, deter us from making generalisations where
they are useful.
The rural development policy literature is populated by stereotypes, some being more or less
representative and accurate and others being anachronistic “stylised fallacies” (Hodge, 2004).
Whilst recent policy design and implementation has attempted to incorporate a degree of
flexibility to meet local circumstances (menu-based approaches, neo-endogenous approaches
and so on), generalisations still have a very important role to play in policy design and targeting.
It is extremely important that such generalisations are accurately representative of
contemporary rural Europe.
However it is also important to stress the fact that the generalisations about processes of
change proposed later in this chapter, and the generalisations about geographical contexts
presented in Chapter 3, should not be considered as comprehensive. It would be foolish to
affirm that they are the only possible interpretations of such complex phenomena. Nevertheless
it is hoped that they are, at least, soundly based upon up-to-date evidence, and that they may
therefore help to dislodge certain outdated stereotypes, from a position of influence over policy
design which is increasingly difficult to justify.
“Story lines” and “Meta-Narratives”
A “narrative” approach seems appropriate where the requirement is to organise a large volume
of information about elements of change which are interlinked in complex ways across both
rural space and time. Where so much of the information is intrinsically qualitative, narratives are
more practicable and potentially richer, than quantitative analysis/modelling of indicator data.
The thematic accounts of recent socio-economic trends provided in working papers 1-9 (Annex
1) contain what may be termed “story lines” which are focused on specific aspects
(demography, business development, employment etc). At a more synthetic level these “story
lines” may be woven into various “meta-narratives” which are not constrained by disciplinary or
research topic boundaries, but integrate processes across the spectrum.
It is tempting to view these “meta-narratives” as the “drivers” of rural change. Nevertheless, it is
important to keep in mind the extreme complexity of the development process, and the partial
nature of our understanding of it, which means that it is risky (perhaps simplistic) to speak in
terms of linear cause and effect relationships. It is safer to consider the “meta-narratives”
primarily as a helpful way of organising an otherwise bewildering array of information. It is also
worth emphasising that they are not mutually exclusive, the same “story lines” may be tied into
more than one meta-narrative. Neither are the meta-narratives synonymous with the
development paths of individual rural areas. Most localities show evidence of several meta-
2.2 Aspects of Rural Change: A Thematic Overview.
The research team carried out “state of the art” reviews of scientific literature across nine
themes. The associated Working Papers are reproduced in Annex 1 (WP1-9). Key findings are
summarised below under five headings; Economic, Social, Policy and Environmental
Processes, and Rural-Urban Relationships. Although it is impossible to do justice to the range
of information or the complexity of the ideas presented in the nine working papers, it is hoped
that this will provide a more easily digestible overview.
Within each of these thematic contexts it becomes evident that the Working Paper discussions
reflect two broad aspects:
o The first is the “story lines”, socio-economic changes which can be observed across a
wide range of geographical contexts.
o The second relates to those contexts, and the way in which they mediate the process of
change, perhaps facilitating it, or perhaps slowing it down, or choking it off.
An important “story line” of rural change is concerned with the sectoral structure of economic
activity. This is commonly measured in terms of employment, and (where regional accounts are
estimated) gross domestic product (GDP). It is a truism of economic development theory
(Freshwater 2000 p2) to state that development involves a shift in balance away from primary
activities, towards secondary (manufacturing) and tertiary (service) activities. In the rural
development literature this change is often referred to as “diversification”, and the outcome is
sometimes termed the New Rural Economy (NRE). Although (in comparison to the less
developed world) Europe could be said to have already completed the transition many decades
ago, there are many subtle differences between different parts of the ESPON space, and “fine-
tuning” adjustments (between, for example, secondary and tertiary activities, low technology
and high technology/information intensive activities), continue.
Where the NRE is most firmly established (generally in the more accessible parts of Europe),
both primary and secondary activities have been superseded by market service activities as the
dominant way to earn a living. In this context, of course, the concept of a “rural economy” is
complicated by a multiplicity of linkages between the countryside and adjacent urban areas,
including substantial commuting flows. Nevertheless there is plenty of evidence that accessible
rural areas are very competitive as environments for entrepreneurship, and that counter-
urbanisation (see below) has an employment element as well as a demographic component.
Another common economic narrative concerns the role and function of the land, landscape and
natural environment as a basis for economic activity in rural areas. The traditional role of land
and the farming sector as a producer of food and fibre has been vulnerable to overseas
competition (where costs are lower) for more than a century. For much of the post-war period
the pressure for change was resisted through agricultural policies. In the current century trade
liberalisation has forced the industry to consider product differentiation, (quality, regional
appellations, organic production, short supply chain arrangements etc) and “niche marketing” as
strategies to sustain incomes from production. Alongside these solutions are more radical
approaches based upon attempts to “commodify” public goods which have always been
associated with the countryside, but which have not hitherto contributed much to rural incomes.
This is part of the basic rationale for agri-environment policy, and the concept of
“Multifunctionality”. The latter also encompasses the rise of leisure and tourism activities in
association with farming. However, a substantial proportion of rural tourism and recreation
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