peripherality, weak agglomerative advantages, poor communications, negative population
trends (and associated labour market issues), difficulties in maintaining provision of services of
general interest, and so on.
Whilst acknowledging that sectoral rural development policy may have territorial cohesion
impacts where the primary sector is a relatively important component of the regional/rural
economy (such as in Agrarian regions, and perhaps some Consumption Countryside regions) it
is our intention in the final pages of this report, to articulate a rationale for policy to (directly)
address territorial cohesion in a rural context. This will be firmly based upon the findings of the
preceding sections, arguing that meta-narratives and the typologies suggest some broad
priorities for macro-regions, but that it is also crucial to be responsive to regional/local/micro-
scale variations in intangible assets, through local development approaches.
7.2 The Implications of the Meta-Narratives of Rural Change.
The review of the literature described in Section 2, and the examination of Exemplar Regions
(Section 4) drew attention to a wide range of opportunities and constraints for rural areas. In
Table 1 (below) we have listed a selection of these according to the three meta-narratives
presented in Section 2.3. The final column of the table suggests policy “domains” which may be
appropriate to address these opportunities and constraints, at either EU or national level.
Table 1: Some examples of Rural Opportunities and Constraints associated with the
competitiveness in some areas.
Remuneration for rural amenities
Quality products, short supply
chains, regional appellation.
Loss of agricultural competitiveness in some
areas low income or abandonment.
Decline in farm employment, even in competitive
Environmental effects of intensification in
Difficulty in valuation of public goods.
population and economic activity)
in intermediate and accessible
facilitating new activities.
Establishment of the New Rural
Sparsity (especially in remote rural areas)
Selective out-migration from remoter and
sparsely populated regions.
Accelerated demographic ageing.
Difficulties in provision of SGI.
Pump effects of infrastructure improvements.
Wider markets for rural products.
Rapid diffusion of innovation.
Increase in “primary segment”
Expanded opportunities for
Restructuring – loss of competitiveness for
“Rationalisation” of globally controlled activities
concentration in accessible rural,
intermediate, or urban regions.
Loss of local control over economic activities,
employment, provision of market services etc.
Loss of regional distinctiveness, cultural assets,
reduced residential attractiveness and
potential for tourism.
The first observation based on Table 1 is that (although the examples provided are not intended
to be comprehensive) the three meta-narratives point to a rather broad spectrum of
opportunities and challenges, and a similarly wide range of policy domains.
The second point to be made is that each of the meta-narratives has a number of different
impacts, both positive and negative, and that these are likely to vary with regional context. Thus,
for example, the rural-urban meta-narrative points to opportunities in the accessible rural and
intermediate areas, due to counter-urbanisation, and the advance of the New Rural Economy,
but to selective out-migration, accelerated demographic ageing etc. in the more remote and
sparsely populated rural regions. Similarly, Globalisation can bring an increase in “primary
segment” employment in some areas, but a loss of competitiveness, local control, and
degradation of cultural assets in others. This points to the necessity of taking account of
different regional contexts. This can be carried out at various scales, from very localised to
broad “macro regions”. The next section illustrates how the EDORA typologies can be helpful at
this more broad-brush level, whilst Section 7.4 considers how this may be approached in the
context of individual regions, where the key issue is the level of “intangible assets” which
facilitate the response to opportunities.
7.3 Taking Account of Macro-Scale Patterns: The Typologies.
The role of “broad-brush”, “macro-regional” and “structural” patterns (as represented in the
EDORA typologies) in the rationale for rural cohesion policy is explored in the final section of
WP24 (Copus and Noguera 2010, Annex 1). The tables and the associated discussion are
reproduced in Appendix 4.
The exercise presented in Appendix 4 is not claimed to be comprehensive, further detailed
analysis of the processes of rural change, and the associated challenges and opportunities,
differentiating between different types of “non-urban” region (both in terms of degree of rurality
and economic structure) would of course be helpful. Nevertheless it illustrates the fact that
some basic generalisations regarding the impact of the meta-narratives on different kinds of
rural region are possible, and that these could play a role in a first stage of rural territorial
cohesion policy design.
Three key findings are:
The focus of this first, “broad-brush” stage should be appropriate objectives, broad
intervention strategies, and overall/indicative resource allocations for the principal
types of non-urban region. This points first to a role in strategic targeting within
Cohesion Policy, and secondly to the potential to influence the “shape” of Member
State policies through the updated Territorial Agenda.
That the Agrarian, Consumption Countryside, and Diversified (Secondary) types of
region seem to exhibit a balance towards challenges rather than opportunities, and
achieving their full potential is likely to imply a greater level of cohesion policy
support (Figure 10).
That (as already stated above) sectoral rural development interventions have more
scope to deliver territorial cohesion benefits in Agrarian regions than elsewhere,
simply because the primary sector is a larger element of the economy. This does not
mean, of course that other forms of intervention, addressing (for example) issues of
infrastructure, human capital, service provision, business development and so on,
are not required in Agrarian regions. However it is reasonable to conclude the
converse, that sectoral rural development interventions have very modest territorial
cohesion impacts in regions in which the primary sector is relatively unimportant.
+/- +/- - +/-
Figure 10: Broad Generalisations about the Relationship between Meta-Narratives and
7.4 Assessing Potentials at the Micro Level
As both the Exemplar Region reports (Section 4) and the review of urban-rural relationships
(Section 6) illustrated, each individual region has a unique combination of assets and
capacities, both tangible (landscape, agricultural land, settlement pattern, communications and
transport networks, workforce, commercial and industrial buildings etc) and intangible (human
capital, social capital, institutional capacity, entrepreneurial culture etc). Upon these, various
processes of rural change (summarised in the meta-narratives), and the exogenous shocks of
the Future Perspectives analysis, act. As we have seen, some aspects of this nexus of regional
potential and forces of change vary systematically across Europe, are measured by widely
available indicators, and can therefore be captured (at least in part) by the typologies. By
contrast, most of the intangible assets, which are the key to “diagnosis” and programme design
at a more detailed, individual region, level are not currently reflected in published statistics.
Some are in any case “aspatial”; (i.e. not subject to systematic variation). These observations
point to two requirements:
(a) A standardised form of regional auditing of assets (especially intangibles), in order to
provide an adequate evidence base upon which to base a choice of interventions tailored to
the assets and potential of each region.
(b) A determined and sustained effort to redress the balance of the published indicator
resource, to eliminate the current agrarian bias, and to introduce innovative indicators (or
reliable proxies) for key intangible assets.
“As the specific constellation of local and regional assets (both tangible and intangible) vary in
a more unsystematic way across Europe, these would have to be assessed through local or
regional audits... The proposed regional audits suggest a process to take full account of
development assets and explore required and most effective activities for each region. These
considerations ought to be supported by general guidelines that translate the framework of
regional typologies and meta-narratives into a set of relevant intervention priorities…” Dax et al
(op cit p24).
7.5 A Multi-Level Approach to Support Rural Territorial Cohesion.
At the beginning of this section the ultimate aim of the project was restated, as finding ways to
promote territorial cohesion by identifying ways in which “EU and Member State policy can
enable rural areas to build upon their specific potentials”. Clearly the rationale presented above
points generally towards a multi-level approach, addressing both macro and micro-scale
components of rural change and differentiation (Figure 11).
Figure 11: Multi-Level Rural Cohesion Policy
At the macro-scale level the EDORA typologies have pointed to economic restructuring and
diversification as a key issue. There are clear and persistent macro-scale patterns of structural
differentiation, closely associated with disparities in economic performance which seem well
suited to carefully targeted horizontal forms of intervention. In terms of existing policies, Axis 3
of CAP Pillar 2, Cohesion Fund and Convergence Objective policies are the obvious vehicles.
However the former is currently rather sectoral in terms of its implementation, whilst the latter
could be seen as urban in focus, and particular consideration should be given to the role and
needs of rural SMEs, and non-farming rural households.
At the micro-scale (local/regional) level the key policy “levers” relate to various kinds of
territorial capital, with an increasing emphasis upon intangible or “soft” aspects, such as human
and social capital, institutional capacity, and so on). This points to neo-endogenous forms of
intervention, termed “local development” by the Fifth Cohesion Report (EC 2010c), supported
by standardised, comparable auditing of local assets. The LEADER Axis of CAP Pillar 2 is
(despite many criticisms of the handling of “mainstreaming”) perhaps the most promising
example of this form of intervention.
However EU policies such as those mentioned above can never be sufficient. A very broad
range of Member State and regionally implemented policies have an impact upon rural change
and patterns of differentiation at both macro and micro regional levels. With respect to these the
most realistic policy objective is to increase awareness and readiness to take account of rural
impacts within the Member State policy community. The most promising vehicle for this is the
Territorial Agenda (COPTA 2007). It is desirable that the ongoing revision (Salamin 2011)
should take it beyond its current focus upon rural-urban linkages as the main response to
differential performance, towards “rural cohesion proofing” across a wide range of Member
State policy domains. In this sense it could occupy a “meso” (Member State) level in terms of
The above description of the sort of policy rationale/architecture which follows logically from the
findings of EDORA, (both conceptual and empirical) is of course predicated upon the
assumption of “a clean sheet”, or “starting from scratch”. As such it will appear somewhat
disconnected from the current debate centred upon the CAP Towards 2020 document (EC
2010b), and the Fifth Cohesion Report (EC 2010c), and the debate about the programming
period beginning in 2014. Sadly the two documents mentioned above seem to portend rather
limited opportunities to implement the conclusions of EDORA in the near future. Two specific
possibilities, relating to targeting of Single Farm Payments, and Multi-Fund Local Development
programmes were highlighted by Copus et al (2011) at the Bled Conference. An extract from
this paper, providing details, is reproduced as Appendix 5.
8 Suggestions for Further Research.
A range of possible avenues for further investigation suggest themselves, including very topical
issues such as further exploration of climate change impacts and possible responses in different
kinds of rural area, or the effects of recession and the nature of resilience in different contexts.
However these issues will undoubtedly attract research funding from a variety of sources in the
However it is important to keep in mind the core mission of ESPON. 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 above would be extremely valuable. Components of such a project might
o Further work to develop meaningful and comparable indicators of “soft” forms of territorial
capital. This would need to be preceded by systematic comparative analyses of rural
regions across Europe, in order to better understand the nature and role of the different
forms of capital.
o The development of systematic auditing procedures to assess regional territorial assets
(both tangible and intangible).
o An comparative exploration of the ways in which “top-down” visions and strategies may be
replaced by engagement with stakeholders in collaborative dialogue to ‘plan’ through
deliberative processes. The difficult next step would be to develop procedures which could
allow such engagement to interact with EU policy.
In practical terms a targeted analysis, involving a selection of stakeholder regions representing
different types of rural area, would probably be the most productive environment, since it would
allow specific approaches to be piloted. The desired outcome would be practical tools to support
the multi-fund Local Development initiatives anticipated during the next programming period.
Rural development research and policy has struggled for decades to break out of a “sectoral
straightjacket”. Among the challenges is the difficulty of establishing boundaries, once the old
sectoral line has been crossed. The EDORA review of the “state of the art” paints a very
complex picture of rural change. The “meta-narrative” approach offers a means of organising
this material, illustrating inter-relationships between a wide range of “story lines”. The key output
of the empirical phase of the project, the “EDORA cube”, is a novel attempt to provide a sound
empirical foundation for the construction of new generalisations which reflect the realities of
twenty-first century rural Europe.
An important “sub-text” in the conceptual review is the importance of local context, resources or
assets, in determining the capacity to respond positively to ubiquitous meta-narratives of
change, which is the principal determinant of differentiation between regions. In the final
sections of this report this concept is mobilised in a policy context in the form of neo-
endogenous “asset-based development”. The potential benefit of incorporating these ideas
more fully within both EU Cohesion policy, and Member State policy architecture, is one of the
key practical implications of the theoretical findings of the EDORA project.
The EDORA Future Perspectives analysis has suggested that the incremental processes of
change represented by the meta-narratives are likely, over the next two decades, to be subject
to exogenous “shocks” from the many direct and indirect impacts of climate change. The effects
upon, and opportunities available to, rural Europe will depend to a large extent upon the rapidity
with which climate change impacts are felt, and the model of economic governance which
emerges to structure the response. Foresight techniques have provided a set of alternative
scenarios for rural areas in Europe, a starting point for a discourse on how climate change
impacts, and opportunities, might be accommodated in future Cohesion policy.
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