Laurent Van Depoele, EC rural development director, has promised the commission's commitment to a policy for all rural areas - in place for the millennium which would lead to the 'renovation of villages, the stimulation of young farmers and the attraction of small and medium sized enterprises in rural areas.'
At the CLA's Jobs at Risk Conference, held today in London, Mr Van Depoele said that job creation was fundamental to the future of rural areas.
He said: 'You cannot have viable agriculture without viable rural areas. The countryside must be not only a pleasant place to live but also a pleasant place to work.
'Agricultural reform goes hand in hand with rural development. Yes jobs are at risk. We are losing 200,000 farmers a year across Europe. Those people need jobs and we must look outside agriculture to provide them.
'We have three goals - becoming more competitive more environmentally friendly and producing better quality produce. To do this we must recognise the distinction between different types of agriculture - farmers who can compete in world markets and those who are providing a service by maintaining and protecting the landscape. Their incomes must be protected.
'What we must do in the commission is provide a menu of instruments for job creation that each region can select from so that they can create the policy for job creation that is most appropriate for their area.
Small firms minister Barbara Roche, also speaking at the Jobs at Risk Conference, gave the government's commitment to providing the necessary support for small and medium sized rural businesses to enable them to succeed.
She set out her ambitions for Business Links to provide a one stop shop for
all businesses and gave three main commitments:
-- Support for firms employing less than 10 people
-- Additional help for start-ups
-- Equality of service for rural and urban enterprises
'I want to see world class businesses and world class business support,' said the minister. 'The success of SME's is vital to the economic success of this country.'