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V 04. Priority 2

Improving the quality of life in rural areas

Quality of life is an important consideration for everyone, irrespective of culture and country of origin.While improving the quality of life implies an improvement in living standards, these are in fact two different concepts which are not necessarily related. Quality of life is a subjective consideration and says more about how an individual feels about himself, and about where and how he lives. By contrast, living standards tend to be measured by a variety of economic and social indicators and are therefore more related to consumption and income levels. On this basis, it is clear that someone can be considered to have a high living standard but have a poor quality of life, and of course the reverse is true. It is equally true that two people can be considered to have the same living standards, but one will consider that their quality of life is poor, while the other not, and so the debate continues.

European Union

Thus it is the very subjective nature of this theme that provides a challenge for policy-makers. At the European Union level, the improvement of quality of life is a mediumto long-term objective in several areas of European policy, namely, economic, social and environmental. The notion of social quality was first officially introduced through the 1997 Amsterdam Declaration on the Social Quality of Europe. This acknowledged that citizens should ‘have access to an acceptable level of economic security and of social inclusion, live in cohesive communities, and be empowered to develop their full economic potential’.

The Commission report to the Laeken meeting of the European Council, December 2001 proposed the development of indicators around ‘quality of work’. Similarly, the promotion of the information society strategy since 2000 refers also to the use of information communication technologies (ICT) as a driver or condition of ‘future quality of life’. Within the fifth framework programme for research, there are also several themes, covering such areas as health, air and noise pollution, ecology and conservation of natural and cultural resources, which in their different ways can influence quality of life.

However, perhaps the key policy context is the first EU Strategy for Sustainable Development which was adopted at the Gothenburg Summit in June 2001, and marked the start of EU policy-making in this field, while taking into account other existing policy areas. Apart from social inclusion and ageing (previously established), four environmental priorities were defined: climate change; sustainable transport; public health; managing natural resources. It is worth noting that sustainable development is also a horizontal or cross-cutting theme required under the Leader+ initiative.

Other research carried out in 2002 by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions identified 12 domains relevant to people’s quality of life. These domains include: economic resources; health and health care, employment and working conditions; knowledge, education and training; families and households, etc. This research concluded that, in rural Europe some strategic domains were lagging behind. These were identified as: economic resources; health and healthcare;knowledge, education and e-learning.

The Leader+ contribution

Within the Leader+ programme, many of these strategic domains and issues are addressed by the different programme themes working together, and not only by the „quality of life“ theme. The other themes — making the best use of natural and cultural resources, adding value to local products, the use of new know-how and new technologies — all contribute towards an improvement in the quality of life in rural areas. For example, it is not enough to have a good environment and job opportunities without a good social life and easy access to public services and new technologies. Nor is it useful to have new technologies if people cannot be gainfully employed because either the enabling infrastr or the relevant training to use it is not available. Under Leader+, local action groups (LAGs) can be active in several of these strategic domains. This helps to ensure that rural territories remain competitive, as well as reversing the trend of rural depopulation.

Priority 2: Improving the quality of life in rural areas
Measures
Activity 1
Activity 2
Activity 3
2.1 Increased participation of civil society sector in society
2.1.1 Support to organizations of persons with special needs
2.1.2 Support to organizations for sport and recreation
2.1.3 Support to organizations for youth and children
2.2 Improving connectivity of rural areas
2.2.1 Internet community - eAlibunar
2.2.2 Support to local media: press, radio, TV
 2.2.3. Support publishing periodicals
2.3 Environment and working environment protection and improving living conditions
2.3.1 Restoration and recultivation of landfills
2.3.2 Preparation of studies on waste water treatment in settlements
2.3.3 Regulation of agri-protection areas and areas along the road

 

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