by Andros Karayiannis*
The public debate with young people living in rural areas is quite constructive because dialogue brings to light several issues that local authorities may be unaware of.
The Future of Europe Conference highlighted numerous weaknesses and problems confronting rural and outlying areas. Housing policy and finding housing are major concerns for young people who do not want to live with their parents and require their own independent space. Providing financial incentives for the strengthening and upgrading of rural, mountainous, or remote areas is an appropriate incentive for young people to stay in their place of origin, which contributes to the reduction of desolation and abandonment of small communities.
In addition to the housing issue, young people are concerned about public health issues, because they need good health services and easy access to medical centers in order to stay in their villages and communities. Young people require modern education and training facilities for themselves as well as their children. The establishment of pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as the decentralization of university education through the establishment of university branches in rural areas, is a basic requirement for young people to remain in the countryside.
Local governments, Member States, and European institutions must all work together to keep and return young people to their roots. Young people are very familiar with technology, particularly the internet and social media. Easy internet access is a key factor in attracting young people and internet nomads who require a fast telecommunications network to work from home and pay personal bills.
The concerns of young people are well known because local governments understand that if they are not professionally and financially secure, they will most likely not dare to start a family. Young people's needs in today's world are based on modern conveniences that they take for granted, such as new ways of communicating with technology and working more flexible hours.
Young people who choose to live in rural areas or rural centers should have easier access to urban areas via public transportation, reducing emissions from private vehicles. To avoid discrimination between rural and urban residents, local governments should build infrastructure, carry out development projects, and attract investment with the help of the state.
However, admitting that small municipalities face more everyday problems related to housing, education, economic development, and the environment than cities and urban centers is not enough. It's also not right to ignore rural areas, forcing young people to move to cities.
As a result, if we want to keep rural and outlying areas alive, we must provide incentives for housing, education, vocational rehabilitation, economic development, and accessibility. Urban overcrowding and constant urbanization are constantly harming the environment and causing new social problems, both of which are currently high on the agendas of young people living in rural and urban areas.
*Mr. Andros Karayiannis is the Mayor of Derynia
[This article was first published in Kathimerini's Sunday edition and translated from its Greek original]