Although RDP 2007-2013 expenditures represent less than 20% of total CAP expenditures, this policy is supposed to support rural areas in facing new challenges. Actually, EU rural areas are going through major transformations. Due to the very different development processes that rural areas have lately undertaken, the urban-rural divide is now almost outdated (OECD, 2006): rural regions in central EU regions can benefit from the improvements in transportation systems and in ICT, in touristic flows and in the development of SME systems (ESPON, 2005); conversely, more peripheral rural areas still face major development issues (e.g., depopulation and land abandonment). According to this framework, the paper first computes a comprehensive index of rural-peripherality (RP index) based on major rural features. The higher this index is, the more rural and peripheral a given region is. On this basis, the paper then provides taxonomy of rural areas across Europe. Methodology follows a multivariate statistical approach: principal component analysis and cluster analysis are applied to the NUTS 3 regions in the EU-27. Although this type of analysis is not new in literature this work takes into account both socio-economic indicators and other relevant geographical characteristics, such as land use, potential accessibility, geographical distance from major EU cities. Moving from this regional taxonomy, the paper then assesses existing correlations between the intensity of Rural Development Policy expenditures (expressed per unit of agricultural land, per unit of labour force, per agricultural gross value added) and different profiles of rural-peripherality, According to these results, the analysis can help in better defining the consistency of the EU policy-makers’ decisions with the real characteristics of EU rural areas.


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