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The lead up to the 3rd European Rural Parliament
October 18-21, 2017

The energy is building towards the 3rd European Rural Parliament Gathering, which will be held 18-21 October 2017 in the village of Venhorst in the Netherlands. We anticipate 300 participants from across the 40 countries that are now partners in the European Rural Parliament work, as well as delegates from European level institutions and policy makers from national and European levels.  The 3rd European Rural Parliament  will take the work that was started during the ERP2015 Campaign and Gathering to the next stage, to enable an updated debate about the state of rural areas in the wider Europe and the policy challenges and opportunities which must be faced in the coming decade.  It will also prepare the way for the actions needed for the coming 2 years in the work of the ERP. You can read about the plans for the event and the preparatory work which is underway now in this newsletter. We will be notifying our partners and friends of the details and registration process a little later in the year. If you wish to express interest in attending the Gathering, please contact the Joint Coordinators.
In the lead up to the gathering, our many partners across Europe are working to develop our understanding and joint action on the key themes identified in the 2015 European Rural Manifesto. The first six themes, which are funded through the EC Europe for Citizens Programme, are underway. You can read about the work being undertaken on these themes below. We anticipate the thematic work and partnerships will continue into the future, beyond the 3rd European Rural Parliament.  If you are interested in being involved in any of the thematic work streams please contact the ERP Co-ordinators:
Vanessa Halhead, Kirsten Birke Lund, Kim Smedslund, ERP Joint Coordinators
Vanessa Halhead,  email
Kim Smedslund,  email
Kirsten Birke Lund, email
New ERP partners

The ERP is very pleased to welcome as new national partners the following organisations:
  • From Belarus two partners:
    • The International Foundation on Rural Development
    • The Sustainable Development Center
  • From Georgia: Civil Development Agency (CiDA)
  • From Ukraine: The National Ecological Centre of Ukraine
Website and social media

Website:  As publicised in our last Newsletter, our website: has been changed and upgraded. We are pleased to announce that the management of our Website is still in the hands of our experienced Austrian team Thomas Müller and Lize Grimbeek, who were setting up the website and managing both the website, the registration and logistic for the ERP Gathering in Schärdingen 2015.  As the work on the different themes will progress each of the themes will have their own page on the website, under “Campaign”> “Thematic Activities”.

Facebook:  We will be maintaining 2 Facebook pages:
Twitter:  As we move towards the 3rd European Rural Parliament we will also be using our Twitter link #EuRuralParl

Please assist us in making our Website and Facebook interesting and up-to-date, by sending us relevant information or posting it yourself.

Thematik work

Work on the six thematic activities, which are receiving support under the EU Europe for Citizens Programme, are underway, as part of the ERP SPARCE Project. Each theme is being led by an ERP Partner organization, and involves many other organisations as project partners. The work with each theme will be undertaken through virtual exchanges with rural citizens, typically involving questionnaires, surveys, workshops and face-to-face meetings between the theme partners. For each theme, at least 250 people will be involved in these exchanges and 25 to 50 citizens, drawn from 6 or more countries, will then take part in ‘lifeshop’, travelling workshops, or other format of meeting. This is designed to provide a strong ‘reality check’ of rural conditions and success stories, and an active multi-national exchange of ideas. This will aim to clarify key issues and identify and publicise case studies. The work with each theme will aim to find consensus on how citizens can participate in shaping policy and taking action related to each theme. The results will be discussed at the 3rd European Rural Parliament and disseminated throughout Europe.

Information about the ongoing work on each theme will be posted here

Below is a short presentation of each of the six initial thematic projects, currently underway:

1. Provision for young people in rural areas, and preparing for a European Rural Youth Parliament

This theme is led by ERCA, through project leaders:  SYTY – the Village Action Association of Finland and the Latvian Rural Forum.  The Project Managers are Kim Smedslund of SYTY and Anita Selicka of LRF. The main activities are:

  • gathering ideas and case studies related to the needs of young people in rural areas, and how these needs may be met
  • building a network of young people and their organisations in rural areas within the framework of the European Rural Parliament
  • including events for young people at local, regional and national levels
  • organising the first European Rural Youth Parliament
  • making the youth thematic activities an on-going part of the ERP process.

2. Welcoming refugees and economic migrants in rural areas

This theme is led by HSSL - Hela Sverige ska leva, the Swedish rural movement, and will involve project partners from Austria, Estonia, Finland, Serbia, Turkey, Hungary and Slovenia.  The Project Manager is Josefin Heed of HSSL.
The work will gather examples, experience and knowledge from rural Europeans who are working with initiatives to welcome refugees and migrants into their communities. It will aim to involve over 200 responses in an on-line survey and will arrange several virtual think tanks (structured meetings) with over 40 people.  The aim is to exchange ideas, draw conclusions and build strategies for the 3rd European Rural Parliament.
Contribute to the survey and register for the virtual think tanks here!

3. Tackling poverty and social exclusion in rural areas

This theme is led by PREPARE through project leaders the Polish Rural Forum, FAOW and will involve partners from across Europe. The Project Managers are Ryszard Kaminski and Urszula Budzich-Tabor of the Polish Rural Forum.  The work will be undertaken through virtual exchanges with rural citizens on experience of enlisting the participation and meeting the needs of socially excluded citizens. FAOW has established cooperation with universities to participate in the work on this theme, and a two-day practitioners’ workshop will be organised in or near Cracow in May or June 2017 be attended by approximately 40 practitioners and researchers from Poland and at least 5 other countries.

4. Sustaining rural services and infrastructure

This theme is led by ACRE, Action with Communities in Rural England. The Project Manager is Deborah Clarke of ACRE.
We hope the work can also be combined with work on the themes of “Small Towns” and “Integrated rural development and promotion of LEADER and Community-Led Local Development”
Services and infrastructure are important to everyone, and to rural residents, but raise different issues. Part of the work is to establish which rural services and infrastructure are the most important for people across rural Europe and how such services are provided. The main aims are:

  • to clarify key issues when considering rural services and infrastructure
  • to identify case studies to show how rural services can be sustained by communication
  • to offer conclusions, recommendations and to share knowledge of how citizens can participate in shaping policy and taking action to ensure services.

5. Strengthening local and sub regional economies

This theme is led by PREPARE through project leaders, the Slovenian Rural Network. The Project Manager is Goran Soster of PREPARE and the Slovenian Rural Network.
The aims of the work are:

  • to clarify key issues on the central theme by surveys, travelling workshops and events
  • to identify successful case-study examples of how rural economies can be strengthened and diversified
  • by reference to those examples, to find out which are the most significant drivers of success, which are the main motives of stakeholders to join the common initiatives, and how citizens can participate in shaping policy and taking action related to this theme. 
  • to estimate the potential of the local and sub-regional economies in the areas involved in the survey
  • to present a report and recommendations

6. Integrated rural development, and promotion of LEADER and Community-Led Local Development

This theme is led by ELARD, the European LEADER Association for Rural Development. The Project Manager is Kadri Tillemann of ELARD.
The activities are based on a definition of the theme as being an ongoing process involving local stakeholders aiming to improve the lives of people living in rural areas, and the main aim will be:

  • to clarify to what degree development of rural areas is done as an integrated process between stakeholders and central, regional and local authorities
  • to identify case studies to show the differences between top down and integrated development
  • to identify case studies to show advantages and disadvantages of using LEADER, CLLD or other methodologies in rural development, as administered today
  • to conclude and declare suggestions to how different methodologies can improve the development of rural areas by involving stakeholders.

We also hope to be able to soon launch more of the themes mentioned in the ERP Manifesto – including:

  • The well-being of small and family farms
  • The crucial role of small towns, and rural and urban cooperation
  • Climate change and its implications for rural areas
  • The role of civil society networks in rural areas
  • Leadership in rural development
  • Education in rural areas
  • Partnership between civil society and governments in rural development
  • Rural development in the western Balkans and the Black Sea regions

We will also be launching work on National Rural Parliaments, to enable mutual sharing and learning from the experiences of the many countries which now have successful Rural Parliaments.

If you are interested in being part of any of these thematic activities, please make contact with the ERP Co-ordinators.

The 3rd European Rural Parliament – October 18-21, 2017

Work is well underway in preparing for this important 3 day event, to take place in Venhorst, a rural community of 1700 people in the municipality of Boekel in Noord-Brabant, Netherlands, close to the borders of Germany and Belgium.

‘It’s fantastic that 350 people from all over Europe will share their knowledge here. Everyone will come with the intention to bring something. Bringing something means getting something. The power will be enormous if we share that in our own communities!’ Pierre Bos, Mayor of Boekel.

The 3rd ERP will be hosted by Landelijke Vereniging voor Kleine Kernen LVKK (the Dutch National Association of Small Towns) and its provincial partner Vereniging Kleine Kernen Noord-Brabant VKKNB (North Brabant Association of Small Towns), with support of the municipality of Boekel, Gemert-Bakel, the province of Noord-Brabant and the ministry of the Interior.  It will also be supported by many provincial and local organisations and by student volunteers. 100 local families have already offered to accommodate the delegates in their homes.

The participants will take part in a program full of workshops, debates and excursions during the three-day event. North Brabant has recently been identified as one of the ‘smart’ regions of the world. It is a remarkable example of high tech development in agriculture and rural industry.

‘We make a connection between the city and the state, between growth and shrinkage, between city and country, between formal and informal economy, between local and global, between native and foreign, between educated and uneducated. Making those connections is in service of a common future, a future where economy, ecology and the social quality of our society will develop balanced.’ Commissioner of the King, Wim van de Donk, about the position and function of the province of Noord-Brabant.
ERP Steering Group
The Steering Group of the European Rural Parliament will be meeting in Venhorst on April 11-13 to agree the plans for the 3rd ERP and the process leading up to it. The Steering Group comprises 3 representatives from each of the 3 ERP Co-initiating organisations – ERCA, PREPARE, ELARD, plus one representative from both HSSL and LVKK. We hope to report back on this meeting in our next newsletter.
Reports from events

After Cork 2.0 Conference – September 5-6, 2016 - Cork, Ireland
As we previously informed you the three ERP co-initiators – ERCA, PREPARE and ELARD – were strongly represented at the Cork 2.0 Conference in September last year and contributing to the process resulting in the Cork 2.0 Declaration. We also urged that the conference and Declaration should be followed by much fuller consultation of civil society about future policies for rural development, both ‘narrow’ (EAFRD funds) and ‘broad’ (Structural funds and rural proofing), and that people, who are affected by EU policies should be enabled to participate. ERP seeks to connect, and to rebuild trust between the EU and its citizens and we urge the European institutions to do the same. 
We have since followed this up by ensuring our representation at several “After Cork 2.0-events” such as:

“The Cork 2.0 Declaration - from reflection to action” - January 20, 2017 - Berlin
The debate was moderated by Heino von Meyer from the OECD, who was also the chair of the Cork Conference. In the invitation participation from the audience was both welcomed and encouraged, but unfortunately this was not the case, and no concrete action plan as a result of the Cork 2.0 Declaration was presented.

“Villages and small towns as catalysts for rural development – challenges and opportunities” February 14, 2017 - Bruxelles
Organised by the European Economic and Social Committee, the ERP was invited to present our view on the potential of Small Towns and the need for rural service and infrastructure. Our pan-European partners ECOVAST, who have been working with this theme for many years, presented a survey carried out on the topic. We agreed to cooperate on the ERP theme “Small towns”.

The Civil Dialogue Group on Rural Development - February 15, 2017 - Bruxelles
The ERP Co-initiating partner organisations all have seats in this Group.  One of the points of the agenda was “Action plan to implement the Cork 2.0 Declaration”. Here focus was on post 2020, the future CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and to what extent the Rural Development Program also in the future will be part of the CAP. The messages were vague, nobody wants to make public statements while negotiations are ongoing, but DG AGRI did state, that they want to have a close cooperation between RDP and the CAP, and at the same time invites other funds to also invest in rural areas.
The Action Plan was not ready at the meeting, but has since been launched and can be found here: - you should be able to add your own initiatives.

Public consultation on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy.
The European Commission has launched a public consultation regarding the future of the CAP.   The consultation is open until 2nd May 2017 and can be found here:
We encourage all ERP partners and friends to respond to this consultation. There is grave danger that the current political and financial crisis will provoke EU Leaders to cut the future budgets for agriculture and rural development.   Those who care about the well-being of rural people, and the high contribution that rural areas make to the well-being of all Europe, must raise their voice at this crucial time.”

RURAL post-2020 Conference, 4 May 2017
The European Committee of the Regions, together with R.E.D. and the European Countryside Movement, is organising a conference in Brussels on 4 May under the title “RURAL post-2020 : A Rural Agenda to re-enchant the European project”.  Programme and information from,english/

The event “Cork 2.0 - Acting BIG for Rural Development” March 22, 2017 – Bruxelles
Hosted by Copa-Cogeca, with focus on “B for Bio-economy & Biodiversity”, “I for Investment & Innovation” and “G for Generational renewal & Green Growth”. ELARD’s representative pleaded for cooperation between the big actors, farmers and foresters and the millions of people living in the rural areas.

Participation in other events:

The ENRD “Workshop on Social Hubs in Rural Europe” 9th February 2017 in Bruxelles structured around existing ‘hubs of activity’ amongst network members on the themes of: women; youth and migrants & refugees. The workshop had a very participative structure with many interesting speeches on the above mentioned themes. ERP participated and the theme leader of the ERP theme “Welcoming migrants and refugees” Josefin Heed, HSSL gave good presentation and established contacts for both the “Youth” and “Migrants & Refugees” themes.

PREPARE’s Black Sea Travelling Workshop held in October 2016
This is part of the on-going work being undertaken by PREPARE in the Black Sea region. Several of the ERP national partners were involved. A film of the Travelling Workshop was commissioned by PREPARE and made by ‘Creating Freedom’. This 15 minute video can be viewed here:
The report of the Travelling Workshop can be found here: Report on PREPARE website
Download Report-File

Forthcoming events

Croatian Rural Parliament:  April 20-22 2017
The Croatian Rural Development Network invites you to the 2nd Croatian Rural Parliament in Sveti Martin na Muri. The Rural Parliament has the title “To Integral Development – through cooperation”
Find more details here:
Download Programme

Estonian Rural Parliament XII:  August 4.-6. 2017

Vana-Võidu, Viljandi County (Southern part of Estonia). International guests are welcome to participate!
The programme will include:
August 3 - arrival to Tallinn, accommodation in Tallinn, get-together dinner
August 4 - field visits tour from Tallinn to Viljandi County, opening ceremony in Viljandi, evening program August 5  - workshops, discussions, opening the program "Republic of Estonia 100 - birthday in each Village"
August 6 - Declaration to politicians, government and public, closing ceremony, departure
Participation fee 45€ covers accommodation (in Tallinn and in the venue), meals, local transportation.
Registration and website for foreign guests will be available since April 2017.
Contact: Anneli Kana,   -    phone +372 52 88810

Finnish Rural Parliament – 1-3 September, 2017
Finland is organising their first broad-based Finnish Rural Parliament this year, in cooperation with several GO, NGO and private sector partners, and combining this with celebrating the 100 yrs Independence of Finland.
They expect some 1000 people to attend and would also like to welcome colleagues from other EU countries to Leppävirta in North Savo. For now they ask potential participants to save the date – more information and instructions for registration coming soon.
Find more details here

Hope to see you there!

Vanessa Halhead, Kirsten Birke Lund, Kim Smedslund, ERP Joint Coordinators

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