Rural areas constitute more than 77% of the territory of the European Union, of which 47% is farmland and 30% are forests. Rural areas and agriculture are very different in the respective EU member states: from huge farms in Czechia to tiny farms in Cyprus or Malta.
Over the ages, farms and nature have combined into beautiful rural landscape. Land farming is a positive force driving the development of the rich diversity of land and habitats, including the mosaic of forests, swamps and vast areas of open nature. Rural areas attract new farming enterprises. They are also an attractive living place for families. The number of tourist and leisure enterprises in the countryside is growing.
There is a complex link between the natural environment and agricultural practices. Many precious habitats in Europe are preserved by extensive farming. However, wrong agricultural practices and land use may also have a negative impact on the natural resources, causing soil, water and air pollution, fragmentation of habitats or loss of wild nature.
Agriculture in the European Union is governed by the single common EU agricultural policy. The policy sets the framework and basic principles of agriculture in all the Member States. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was launched in 1962. It is the main link between the agricultural sector and the society, between Europe and farmers. The principles of the Common Agricultural Policy respect the natural requirements and promote agricultural practices that protect the nature and landscapes. The CAP encourages farmers to play a positive role in preserving villages and the natural environment. This is done by targeting aid to rural area development measures that promote sustainable agricultural practices, such as environmental management schemes. On the other hand, manufacturers that do not comply with environmental protection regulations receive reduced financing from the CAP.
The CAP is a common policy applicable to all EU Member States. It is managed and financed on the European Union from the EU budget.