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Minister Podgoršek symbolically handed over the beehive at the Interest grouping of the French assembly for the rural areas

Minister dr. Jože Podgoršek assumed the presidency role at the Council for Agriculture and Fisheries at the French assembly for the rural areas yesterday, an interest grouping that unites representatives of local authorities, parliament members, academics and researchers. The central focus of the meeting was on the development of the rural areas for the further development of the common European agricultural policy. It was on this occasion that he gave Joël Giraud, minister of rural affairs, the beehive as the symbol of the Slovenian countryside.

Minister Podgoršek handed over beehive at the Interest grouping of the French assembly for the rural areas

Minister Podgoršek handed over beehive at the Interest grouping of the French assembly for the rural areas | Author MKGP

In his introductory speech to the members of the French Assembly for the rural areas, the minister played a video of Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, carried out in connection with rural development. The long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas up to 2040, presented by the European Commission at the end of June, is a relevant horizontal topic for Slovenia, and one of the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Particular emphasis was placed on the discussions on the development challenges of rural areas, which are experiencing various obstacles, e.g. digitalisation, demographic challenges, the role of women in rural areas, and the strengthening of dialogue between urban and rural environments. The minister said that during the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, three international agriculture ministers’ conferences were held in Slovenia, at which the above-mentioned topics were discussed.

He initially spoke about the role of women in rural areas. He said that Slovenia’s presidency also organised the international conference in the scope of the international agricultural fair Agra, where it was said that sometimes rural women are left out from co-decision-making processes, education, and social activities, mainly because they are providing care for children and family members. He added that particular attention needs to be given to improve their position. “Upon providing for the most vulnerable part of society, we also improve the situation of women in the long term. Supplementary education is especially important because it makes a useful contribution to the financial and social component of the lives of rural women. They can therefore confront the modern challenges in society in an easier manner.” He said that they also signed a declaration at the conference, in which they emphasised that rural women should have equal rights and be included in all spheres of social life.

He then spoke about the issue regarding the division between the rural and urban environments. He said that demographic trends, coupled with a lack of connectivity, underdeveloped infrastructure, and poor access to public services make rural areas less attractive to live and work in. “Strengthening rural areas is key to the long-term and balanced development of the European continent. Therefore, different policies should serve to create conditions that provide equal social and financial starting points to both women and men, and ensure the stabilisation of demographic trends.” He added that the dialogue between the urban and rural environments was the central focus of the informal meeting of the ministers of agriculture at Brdo pri Kranju, where some conclusions were made. “The rural area is a multi-purpose area in which various activities coexist and complement each other, while also competing against each other. Therefore, the social role of rural areas needs to be redefined, and supported in its diversity and quality.”

The future of agriculture also lies in smart villages. Dr. Jože Podgoršek said that the concept of smart villages introduces innovative solutions to improve their resilience, and build on local strengths and opportunities. They spoke about these at the international conference: Smart villages for a green, digital and resilient Europe as well. “The attendees’ key message was that within the conceptual design of Smart Villages, rural area development needs to be comprehensively addressed, by embracing infrastructure, energy, social care, mobility, digitalisation, tourism, healthcare and more.

At the end of the event, Jože Podgoršek gave Joël Giraud, the minister of rural affairs, a virtual replica of the beehive as a symbolic gift, emphasising the desire to continue the dialogue in the formation of the long-term vision of the future of rural areas in the European Union under the French presidency to the Council of the European Union.