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January 23, 2019

Visit by federal president underlines the importance of developing rural areas for society - Frank-Walter Steinmeier urges creating equal social conditions in urban and rural areas

Berlin, 23 January – Following an invitation by Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited the International Green Week in Berlin today. Together, they opened the 12th Forum on the Future of Rural Development of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Prior to that, they had toured Hall 4.2 which featured the ministry’s stands. Their slogan is ’Keen on the country’.

Steinmeier: the internet is like electricity and water

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier emphasised the importance of creating equal social conditions in urban and rural areas. To accomplish this it was absolutely necessary to provide internet access everywhere, said the head of state on Wednesday at the Forum on the Future of Rural Development. With the arrival of 5G mobile internet access in Germany one would have to make sure that rural areas were not left behind, the federal president cautioned. “For far too long we have been lamenting the slow pace of broadband provision“, he said to applause, and added that no one would even think of cutting off a small village’s supply of electricity and water only because of a demographic shift. “The internet is like electricity and water.“ To ensure there were jobs in rural areas in the future, high-speed internet was needed in the fields and in the home. “Neither agriculture and laser technology nor marketplaces and the global market are contradictory concepts.“

Steinmeier, who was welcomed with a standing ovation on his arrival and departure, had toured the fair beforehand with Federal Minister Julia Klöckner. Together, they had been informed of innovative projects for modernising rural infrastructures. Thus, the business development organisation of the district of Höxter had presented their project for training digital technology experts on a voluntary basis. The ’Lokalhelden’ initiative showed him an app that offers tourists visiting a village or small town information that takes their exact physical location into account.

Julia Klöckner: “Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visit to the Green Week and his presence at the opening of this year’s Future Forum underlines the importance of developing rural areas for society. This is an issue that rightly has priority. Creating equal social conditions acts as a counterbalance against polarisation tendencies and promotes cohesion. The fact that the head of state is on our side sends out an important message. These challenges affect the majority of the German population, 57 per cent of whom live in rural areas. 90 per cent of the country’s land area is essentially rural. People rightly do not want to be left behind. They expect a modern infrastructure, high-speed internet access, good healthcare, attractive jobs, cultural attractions and a good education system. In practice, that means bus services operating regularly, schools not closing down, and being able to visit the theatre or an exhibition locally from time to time.

Thus, under the heading of ’Developing rural areas – a task for both state and society’, the Future Forum 2019 is highlighting what each of us can and must do to ensure that rural areas meet the challenges of the future. We must create individual rather than general solutions, due to the many different needs upon which we must act. We need to connect people at local level and ensure a bright future for every generation.

On our tour we were impressed to see that in rural areas there is innovative drive as well as flourishing businesses and people who do not hesitate to roll up their sleeves and get a job done. That includes the business development organisation of the district of Höxter with its SmartCountrySide project, whose aim is to make the local region more attractive with innovative ideas and initiatives in the fields of digitalisation, energy supply, self-sufficiency and participation, as well as the workshop ’Lokalhelden’ with its focus on rural areas, which helps startups to put their ideas into practice.“

Background information

Under the heading of ’Developing rural areas – a task for both state and society’, the 12th Future Forum is taking place at the International Green Week on Wednesday, 23 and Thursday, 24 January 2019 at the CityCube Berlin. The Future Forum is one of most important national events at the International Green Week and one of the highlights of the programme. The Future Forum gathers over 1,300 opinion-formers from rural areas. Together, they aim to help create equal social conditions in urban and rural areas and the country’s local regions.