A new study carried out by the European Commission (EC) found that people living in rural areas vote significantly more for anti-European parties and are more likely to hold anti-democratic attitudes than those who live in urban centers, said EC for Democracy and Demography Vice President Dubravka Suica on Thursday.
In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, Suica said: "This has to do with the age of the rural population, their economic situation, their level of education and the difficult supply situation in many rural areas. People often blame democracy for their living conditions."
Suica said the EU study revealed that there is a direct connection between demographic development and the level of democratic approval, adding that the subject of the EU's rural-urban divide is an important topic of discussion for Brussels.
Around 100 million people reside in rural areas that make up roughly half of the EU's total landmass.
In a recent lecture with EU ministers, Austrian-Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev said the bloc's real border no longer exists between east and west, but between urban and rural areas. Suica said she agreed with Krastev on the importance of the EU's rural-urban divide and how it influences everyday life.
"People in rural areas often have the feeling that they are being left behind. There are often no doctors, no buses, no shops and no internet," she said.
According to Suica, more and more people, especially younger populations, are leaving for urban areas because they cannot find jobs or because life in the city appears more attractive. As a result, rural areas across the bloc are suffering from a population exodus.
The EC's goal now, she said, is "to make rural areas attractive again for younger people."
In view of the EU's increasingly aging population, Suica also called for older people to become more involved in society and the economy.
"One recommendation is to make better use of the potential of older people. We want older people to make a more productive contribution to society than they have in the past. Those who are 65 or 70 years old can still make a lot of difference if they want to. We want as many people as possible to continue to be involved into old age."
Suica said elderly people could "continue to work, continue to learn, exchange ideas more intensively with younger people, promote innovations or do voluntary work."