European Rural Parliament 2015

The concept of a European Rural Parliament builds on a tradition of national rural parliaments, developed first in Sweden and now found in a growing number of European countries.
The first European Rural Parliament was held in Brussels in November 2013 on the joint initiative of **European Rural Alliance (ERA),**European Rural Community Association (ERCA) and PREPARE Partnership for Rural Europe. It was organised by the Nordic group of national rural movements, led by Hela Sverige ska Leva (the Swedish rural movement, which first pioneered the idea of national rural parliaments). 150 people from 30 countries took part in the event. They agreed that the initiative should continue, in order to strengthen the voice of rural Europe. Since then, ERA and ERCA have merged to form the European Rural Community Alliance ERCA).

In 2014, ERCA and PREPARE began to plan the second European Rural Parliament to be held in 2015. They invited the European LEADER Association for Rural Development to join them as co-initiator of the event.

The aim of the European Rural Parliament is :

• To strengthen the voice of the rural communities of Europe, and to ensure that the interests and well-being of these communities are strongly reflected in national and European policies

• To promote self-help, common understanding, solidarity, exchange of good practice and cooperation among rural communities throughout Europe.

Geographical scope.

This is a pan-European effort, extending beyond the European Union to embrace all other European countries which wish to take part. 2015 is a timely moment to launch this initiative, because it sees the start of the new programme of the European Union, with policies and actions at national level which are highly relevant to the well-being of rural communities. Many countries outside the EU are also reviewing and extending their policies. Rural communities throughout the continent can benefit from exchanges of ideas and good practice in rural development.

National campaigns.
The core of the European Rural Parliament effort is a simultaneous series of national campaigns, designed to gather (in each European country) an ‘upward cascade of ideas’ from rural communities. This ‘cascade’ starts at local level, is being gathered in counties and regions, synthesised at national level and brought together at European level to form a draft European Rural Manifesto which will be debated, amended as necessary, and approved at the ERP 2015 Gathering. These national campaigns are currently in hand in 34 countries : this includes all but four of the member states of the European Union, plus all the Western Balkan states, Moldova and Turkey. The campaigns are being run (in each country) by a civil-society network or individual rural NGO, chosen from among PREPARE’s partners or the members of the ERCA and ELARD networks.

Task Force.
A group of researchers is gathering systematic statistical and other data on the state of rural Europe, and on the scope of national and regional Rural Development Programmes. This will provide a firm conceptual framework for the ideas flowing in from each country, and will feed into the preparation of the draft European Rural Manifesto.
The ERP 2015 Gathering. The climax of the campaign is the ERP 2015 Gathering, to be held in the beautiful small town of Schärding in Upper Austria in the first week of November 2015. This is a three-day event, with one day of study tours in regions surrounding the venue, followed by two days of workshops and plenary sessions. This event will culminate in the adoption of a European Rural Manifesto and supporting Report, aimed at both rural communities and governments throughout Europe and at European Institutions. It will be attended by over 300 people, including delegations from all the countries involved in the cascade of ideas, plus other leading rural organizations and invited representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, and Council of Europe.

Subsequent action.
The European Rural Manifesto, and supporting report, will be published and used to influence European institutions and national and regional governments in their attitudes to, and policies for, rural communities. ERCA, PREPARE and ELARD – all of which have seats in the Civil Dialogue Group which advises the European Commission on its policies for agriculture and rural development, and on the Rural Networks Assembly which guides the work of the European Network for Rural Development – will use the outputs of ERP 2015 in their subsequent networking, advocacy and other activities. They expect to publish multi-national advice and encouragement to rural communities to be active in pursuit of their own well-being. National champions will be enabled to use this material in their own creative activity on behalf of rural communities.
Funding. Funding for the European Rural Parliament 2015 campaign has been secured from many different sources. A grant of €105,000 was secured from the Europe for Citizens fund operated by the European Commission. Public authorities at national, regional and local level in Austria are collectively giving substantial support to the ERP 2015 Gathering to be held at Schärding. Assistance towards the travel and accommodation costs of national delegations to the Gathering is being offered by government -funded National Rural Networks in many countries. Help in kind, including much voluntary effort, is being given by national champions, the joint Coordinators and others.