Francisco Igea, Vice-President of the Castilla y León region, and 2nd Vice-Chair of the SEDEC Commission of the European Committee of the Regions, invited European Commissioner Dubravka Šuica to discuss demographic changes and challenges, allowing her to see the impact on local communities and consider measures at EU level. They were accompanied by CoR member Carlos Aguilar, Director General for External Relations of Castilla y León. 

During a citizen’s dialogue on demographic challenges and the Conference on the Future of Europe organized as part of the study visit at the University of Valladolid, Igea insisted that the political system gives more priority to more populous territories, which causes areas with fewer inhabitants to have fewer representatives. This leads to less influence in designing policies.

Brexit and the rural disconnect

Igea:

The link between demography and democracy is clear to us representing not only citizens but also our territories. Regions that are empty are regions that lose representative weight; becoming disconnected from the decision-making and from the European project. Institutions such as the European Committee of the Regions are crucial to raise the voice of these regions and avoid political problems such as those that have arisen, for example in relation to the Brexit voting map in rural areas.

He links this process of political disconnect and disaffection with the emergence of political projects in the form of local parties that question the future of the EU. The EU therefore needs to take into account regions with serious demographic challenges.

If we do not draw the conclusion that citizens are not only those who live in cities, we will have no future in this European Union.

Igea regretted that regions suffering from a gradual loss of population have financial problems but must give social services such as education and health as in his region of two million inhabitants for 95,000 square kilometers. Castilla y León is a good example of a region that has, as a result of this context, equality problems because almost 70 percent of their budget goes to providing social services.

European Commissioner Šuica recognized demography as an issue of interest for all regions. “We will need help from all our local and regional representatives to tackle demographic challenges but also to make a conference on the future of the EU a success!”

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