Theoretical approaches of methods to delimitate rural and urban areas
The delimitation of rural and urban municipalities as well as the delimitation of contiguous rural areas has not been sufficiently resolved in either academic literature or legislative practice. In relation to the scale and size of their administrative units, different countries use very different methods for delimiting rural municipalities that are based on simple counts of the population, on a municipality's position in the system of public administration or on a combination of multiple socio-economic factors. For the delimitation of rural areas, the various EU member states utilize a method based on population density in relatively large NUTS III regions. This article discusses divergent approaches to the delimitation of rural municipalities, on the one hand, and the delimitation of contiguous rural areas, on the other. Concepts concerning the delimitation of rural municipalities, along with differing characteristics leading to the delimitation of rural municipalities for the statistical processing of large amounts of data or characteristics for subjective evaluations of a small group of units, are discussed using the example of Czechia's settlement structure. The article then focuses on the critical evaluation of methods used for the delimitation of rural areas and, on the basis of various tested variations, proposes a new method for delimiting rural areas in Czechia, using modified OECD criteria. Changes arising both from the significantly smaller units of observation, where instead of considering units at the NUTS III level - regions (kraj) in Czechia, we consider 384 administrative regions of Municipalities with Extended Powers (MEP), as well as from variable changes to the critical values of population density so as to better account for the Czech settlement structure. The article emphasizes the necessity of using different approaches in studying the delimitation of rural municipalities and rural areas, at various scale levels, and the inappropriateness of using the methods of delimitation for rural areas that are currently used for all EU member states, at the national scale.