France's rural areas conference
13 March 2015

Fifty concrete measures for rural areas

Manuel Valls chaired an inter-ministerial committee on rural areas on Friday 13 March in Laon (Aisne department). He took this opportunity to present some fifty concrete measures - resulting from the conference on rural areas - to reposition the countryside at the heart of the plan for France and to combat the feeling of abandonment that its inhabitants may feel.
Content published under Valls II's Government from 2014 26th August to 2016 11th February
In the last 50 years, the sparsely populated areas of rural post-war France have undergone a profound change. Only 5% of French people live in towns outside of the sphere of influence of the cities. These new rural areas are "territories of the future. A future to which the State and public services must fully contribute".
Launched in September 2014, the conference on rural areas, formalised through 7 workshops held between October and December under the aegis of minister of Housing, Regional Equality and Rural Affairs Sylvia Pinel, produced the outline of the first concrete responses and helped redefine the principles that should guide public policies in rural areas:
  • refuse all opposition between territories and ensure that none are abandoned,
  • empower the territories.
After the time for listening, reflection and the first initiatives, the time has come for action. Action to put things right every time the promise of equality is not upheld. As well as action to reposition our countryside at the heart of our plan for France.
Manuel Valls
13 March 2015

Guarantee equal access to public services for all

additional health care centres will be created in 2015.
Equal access to public services for all means first and foremost combating medical deserts. The Government has launched initiatives to this effect. 600 health care centres already bring together several medical disciplines in one place. The Prime Minister has announced the creation of 200 additional health care centres this year. Investment funding for multi-disciplinary health care centres will be a priority for the use of appropriations to equip rural territories, increased by €200 million in 2015.
In order to encourage young doctors to set up practice and facilitate their establishment, the number of public service commitment contracts (CESP) will be doubled. In 2014, 881 students and junior doctors opted for the payment of a grant in return for a commitment to set up practice in a "medical desert". Lastly, access to urgent care in under 30 minutes will become a reality in 2015 for an additional 1 million people, in particular thanks to the development of emergency medical services liaison doctors, who will quadruple in number between 2012 and 2015 (from 150 to 600).
1,000 public service centres will be established by 2016, following the Government’s objective, thanks to a partnership with La Poste. They will house various services: job centers (Pôle emploi), family allowance centers, gas and electricity centers, and will make users' lives significantly easier.
Manuel Valls reiterated that two out of every three towns in France have a primary school. To ensure the presence of these schools in the long term, multi-annual agreements will be concluded with local elected representatives. Furthermore, support for the development of access to digital technology for schools and establishments in rural areas will be enhanced. This will encourage schools to act as a gateway to the world and will provide a particularly effective response to the issues of isolation and the digital divide.

Develop rural areas

In order to allow rural areas to determine their own development, an Economic Development Agency will be created to support initiatives and economic development.
"White areas will no longer exist in France"
 Access to digital technology is essential for attractiveness. The territorial divide is also a digital divide. The Plan to provide ultra-high-speed broadband services, an extensive plan unmatched by anything attempted in the last few years, is currently being rolled out. It represents a €3.3 billion investment from the State and already concerns 86 departments, including 4 overseas departments.

The national programme to eliminate white areas (2G) is almost complete with just 75 towns left out of the 3,310 communes included in this plan. All the towns in France will thus have 2G and 3G coverage by the end of 2016.

Ensure the networking of territories

Demographic growth in rural France in 2015 is strong and often outstrips that of the rest of the French population. "This is a historic development. It is creating a new geography in rural France that we need to support", Manuel Valls emphasised.

The Government has thus launched a new generation of State-region planning contracts, with the aim of providing investments in the regions but also alongside the regions in a partnership approach. "These planning contracts must guarantee the development of all of the territories. That is the aim of their territorial component, which accounts for nearly €2 billion in State and regional appropriations", he explained.
Market town centres, those localities midway between a village and a town, play a key role in rural areas. It is therefore important to use them as a resource in order to construct a balanced coverage across the country. As a result, their revitalisation (shops, crafts, housing, tourism) will be a cornerstone of the territorial development policy.

The relationship between cities and rural areas is still too unbalanced. City-countryside contracts will be trialled between communes and inter-communal bodies on a voluntary basis:
  • the metropolitan city of Lyon and Aurillac;
  • the metropolitan city of Brest and the West Brittany Centre;
  • the metropolitan city of Toulouse and the Pyrenees mountains;
  • the urban community of Le Creusot – Montceau les Mines and the Morvan regional natural park.
An extension of these contracts to other volunteer territories will be proposed at the end of 2016.