The 3rd Phase of ERP Activities

The European Rural Parliament 2016-17 Action Programme was mostly carried out through our SPARCE Project (Strengthening Participation Among Rural Citizens in Europe), which was part funded by the EC Europe for Citizens programme. The aim of the SPARCE Project was to strengthen the participation of rural citizens in the European Union in shaping policies and taking actions for the well-being of rural economies and communities. The project had five main elements:

Advocacy at national and European level

The 2015 European Rural Manifesto was translated into 27 languages, disseminated across Europe and used to support advocacy at national and European levels including: European Commission, EC Civil Dialogue Group and Rural Networks Assembly, the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

The 2017 European Rural Parliament ERP agreed an updated Manifesto and the Venhorst Declaration . These were disseminated and are being translated by our National Partners. Based on these, a detailed Message to European Institutions was produced, and discussed in meetings in December 2017 with the Estonian and Bulgarian Presidencies and Cabinets of Commissioners Hogan, Cretu and Gabriel, regarding future the EU policy and financial framework. Further discussions will be held in 2018 and National Partners will carry out advocacy with Member States and MEPs. This enables the voice of rural communities across Europe to be heard at the highest levels in Brussels.

Multi-national thematic projects

A key focus of activity was a series of six thematic multi-national projects, based on six important themes identified in the 2015 European Rural Manifesto:

1. Provision for young people in rural areas and preparing for a European Rural Youth Parliament
2. Welcoming migrants and refugees in rural areas
3. Tackling poverty and social exclusion in rural areas
4. Sustaining rural services and infrastructure
5. Strengthening local and sub-regional economies
6. Integrated rural development, and the role of LEADER and Community Led Local Development

The thematic projects had a highly practical focus. The aim was to gather and disseminate practical ideas which would help rural stakeholders to take action, to build partnerships and to work with governments. The work was designed to provide a strong ‘reality check’ of rural conditions and success stories, and an active multi-national exchange of ideas. It aimed to clarify key issues and identify and publicise case studies, and to find consensus on how citizens can participate in shaping policy and taking action related to each theme. Each project was led by a National or European Partner and involved a large group of countries as partners, and comprised several elements and events. Results were reported to the 3rd ERP gathering and discussed in plenary and workshops.
Further details and all of the project reports can be found on the Thematic Work page and the ERP2017 on the Library page

The 3rd European Rural Parliament

The 3rd European Rural Parliament was held in Venhorst, North Brabant, Netherlands on 18-21 October 2017. This involved 278 participants from 40 countries, plus many local people from Brabant and representatives of the European Commission. It was the climax of the 2016-17 activity and launch pad for future work. The full and colourful programme comprised full day field visits, two days of plenary and workshop discussions and plenty of time for celebration and networking. It was live-streamed and watched by many across Europe. The resulting Manifesto and Venhorst Declaration, were circulated in 40 countries and European institutions, and form the basis for on-going advocacy.
For a full report of the event and associated documents go to Events, ERP2017 and Library ERP2017 .

Action to strengthen our networks and widen outreach

The ERP is a young and evolving network, significant progress has been made since 2013 to develop the partnership and enable trans-national activity. Many partners were involved in the multi-national thematic and main event work. This increased international links, understanding and capacity to share and bring information from local to European levels. During 2016-17, the ERP network was increased to include National Partners from 40 European countries. These are civil society organisations involving rural communities across their countries. This gives the ERP network significant potential connection to the rural people of Europe, and a platform enabling information and ideas to be circulated between local, national and European levels. We have learned that this platform is also recognised as important by the European Commission, who can struggle to connect with people on the ground in rural areas. It provides our National Partners with a framework to connect, learn, strengthen their position and speak collectively at European level.

Dissemination of ideas from the project

Dissemination of our activities was carried out in various ways, including through our 2 ERP’s websites, 2 Facebook pages, Twitter and press. Our 40 national partners have also publicised our work and key documents in their own languages, through internet and press.