Lambert van Nistelrooij (1953) studied Social Geography at Nijmegen University, graduated cum laude in 1979. He was national president of the Dutch rural youth movement.  Elected in his local council in 1978 and in the Regional Council of Noord-Brabant in 1982. From 1991-2003 he was a regional minister and vice Governor of the region. He was elected during 3 periods in the European Parliament during 2004-2019 (CDA-EPP Group).  Lambert focused on cohesion policy, research and innovation, internal market and energy issues. He was EPP speaker for regional and urban policies. As rapporteur and negotiator on the EU Structural Investment Funds he stressed the role of local authorities. He worked on an outspoken role of the villages and rural communities: the Smart Villages concept. 

Actually Lambert is advisor to the Organisation of American States (in the American Competitiveness Exchange) and the DG REGIO Jury on the Regio Stars Awards. He has a guest professorship at the Being Normal University.  

Smart Villages: next step for Europe

I am convinced that the European Union can address the local communities in a more direct manner. The demographic shifts in the Union, the social and economic developments, the environmental challenges and the growing integration in the Union ask for a bigger role of the villages.

I worked on the Pact of Amsterdam during the Dutch Presidency in 2016. The cities worked and lobbied for years on an official recognition a serious urban agenda. Step by step they convinced the European Council, Commission and Parliament. The role of the cities in the Union is stressed in a Pact, a partnership to get European support. Franc Bogovic and me debated the need for a direct recognition of the villages. We launched the Smart Villages concept in the negotiations on the 2021-2027 regional funds. Both the CAP (esp. pilar 2) and the regional development funds can give a push to villages that look ahead and strive to be in the forefront. Exchanging bottomup experiences and building networks is important, to reach another level of influence and performance in the villages. We are at the eve of a bigger role of the villages in the EU institutions. This goal can only be reached with a strong participation from the villages at forefront of many EU policies and programs.

It is essential that the Slovenian Presidency supports the Smart Villages concept. It is up to the representatives from all parts of Europe to formulate the position of the villages. At local level I feel the strong commitment from the Esbeek village, part of my home municipality of Hilvarenbeek. Esbeek looks to further integration and exchange. This can only be reached in a common commitment with other local communities and villages from all EU Member States. We need to get to an full dressed integrated Smart Villages agenda. The EU programs in 2021-2027 give the villages a starting point. I am happy to listen to your conference and assist in the next step to be taken.