European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC)

Territorial dimensions: towards an EU rural vision for 2040

Johanna Kouzmine Karavaieff
Marine Guadron
Piotr Michalowski
Andre Torre
Claudia Zeiske
What is the new long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas, and which roles do (or can) cultural centres play in it?

Rural areas are home to 30% of the EU population, representing 137 million Europeans, and cover 83% of the EU's territory. Within the last few years, the European Commission has progressively recognized their importance, and in 2021 published the “Long Term Vision for Rural Areas up to 2040”, an initiative defining and framing policies, strategies and investments by and for stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas. In September 2023, Commissioner Elisa Ferreira stated: “Our vision, and policy priority, is one that does the utmost to balance this trend fostering a polycentric development not just of large metropolitan areas, but also small and medium towns, as well as rural areas which can and should spur economic growth and job opportunities across regions”, adding that “(...) cities, towns and rural areas have a symbiotic relationship and strong inter-dependencies”.

As highlighted in the NDPC Policy Brief on Arts & Design-Based Collaboration and Cross-Innovation practices launched in September 2023: “it is important to lead a dialogue with a shared mission, finding roles and added values for operators in the ecosystem. This can only be done with a collaborative mindset aiming at sustainability, the 2030 agenda, and far beyond”. Last October, the position paper “Bolstering Culture in Rural Areas!” was published, featuring various recommendations, among which it was stated that support for cultural activities and projects involving local communities in rural areas should be further developed by adopting a triple-pronged approach: more participatory, needs-based and process-oriented.

For many years, through our dedicated working group, we have advocated for non-urban culture as an element of crucial importance within the EU startegy, calling for the role of socio-cultural centres to be taken into due account. Now that things are starting to move in this direction, we want to invite you to join a discussion about policy advancements, but also challenges and possibilities for improvement. A panel composed by researchers, cultural experts and practicioners active in non-urban areas will help us advance on the topic.

Claudia Zeiske is a producer, cultural activist and "walking curator". With a special interest in rural arts development, she employs the anthropological method known as transformational fieldwork. Her experiences come from participatory arts, linking local activities with global realities.

André Torre is a professor at the University Paris-Saclay and the AgroParistech school of engineers. He presides the European Regional Science Association and is managing editor of the Revue d’Economie Régionale et Urbaine, as well as editorial board member of several international scientific journals.

Johanna Kouzmine-Karavaïeff is specialised in creative economy and culture in economic diversification She is the lead author of the 2023 NDPC policy brief “Arts & Design Based Collaboration & Cross-Innovation – Practices to be enabled, orchestrated and championed for systemic impact”.

Marine Guadron is an advisor on economic, social and territorial Cohesion at the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. Since 2018, she works on economic, social and territorial Cohesion, making the diversity of territories in Europe visible.


Piotr Michalowski is co-chairman at the ENCC, where he coordinates the working group on cultural centres and non-urban areas. Among other duties, he is also an independent expert for the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe programme.