The Slovenia Times

Cerar: Quality of living in urban, rural areas should rise


He believes forces should be joined to implement innovative solutions, including digital ones, to the benefit of the people, including in rural areas, "so that they have an opportunity to stay in the countryside and help develop it".

Cerar welcomed the positive trends in the development of the countryside, but noted that rural areas still faced many challenges such as poor infrastructure and supply as well fast ageing and departures of young people.

But he believes that with new technologies and services, rural areas will become an ever more desired place to live and to do business.

Slovenia is pursuing smart villages goals within the agricultural and cohesion policies, earmarking funds for broadband networks, social inclusion, poverty reduction, and economic and agricultural development of rural areas, he said.

"The rural development programme alone earmarks EUR 1.1 billion for the development of rural areas in our country until 2020."

He also said the next EU's multi-year budget "should not overlook the significance of two key policies: the cohesion and common agricultural policies".

"Rural development policy must remain the key pillar of agricultural policy," he said, adding Slovenia supported an ambitious and future-oriented budget.

European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said that smart villages were a vision or a crazy idea just a while ago and now they were becoming a reality.

It is important that this concept, which she and Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan suggested two years ago, has also started to evolve at the European Parliament.

Slovenian MEP Franc Bogovič, who is hosting the event together with Bulc, is proud the Slovenian government has embraced the concept. "When good ideas come, people are happy to join forces."

He believes changes in digitalisation, environment and demographics, will make the countryside attractive again.

Commissioner Hogan sees smart villages as people and communities finding solutions to the challenges and policy makers supporting them in their efforts.

"We need better interconnectivity and infrastructure in our villages, they are still lagging behind towns. What is needed is a fast broadband internet connection."

The second step is improving the quality of living with jobs, that is with new local markets, digital platforms, mobility solutions, locally produced energy etc, he said.

As part of the conference, a platform enabling peer-to-peer trading in electricity was launched. SunContract is seen as one of the elements supporting the development of smart villages to become energy-sufficient.

Miha Cuznar from the company said that the platform was based on blockchain technology, empowering people to buy and sell electricity in an open market. The company plans to expand to other countries.


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