A key focus of activity during 2016-2017 was a series of six thematic multi-national projects, based on important themes identified in the 2015 European Rural Manifesto:

Below is a short presentation of each of the six initial thematic projects. Under each you will find a link to the associated thematic reports:

1. Provision for young people in rural areas, and preparing for a European Rural Youth Parliament
2. Welcoming refugees and economic migrants 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 promotion of LEADER and Community-Led Local Development

All reports and documents relating to each thematic project can be found in the Library - ERP2017

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

This theme was led by ERCA through the Village Action Association of Finland SYTY and the Latvian Rural Forum LRF, Project Managers were Kim Smedslund of SYTY and Anita Selicka of LRF. The work involved 88 participants from 19 countries: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Norway, Switzerland, Slovenia, Ukraine, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland.

The main activities were:

  • conducting surveys to gather 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
  • organising the first European Rural Youth Parliament
  • making the youth thematic activities an on-going part of the ERP process.

The two lead organisations established a good cooperation with other European youth-organisations – MJARC and 4H. And together they successfully ran the first European Rural Youth Parliament in Latvia on August 11, 2017, and will continue to work with the ERP.

Conclusions identified concerns and needs of rural youth and proposals for addressing these, also future youth involvement in the European Rural Parliament. Results were presented to plenary and a thematic workshop at the 3rd ERP in October 2017.

For further information please contact: 

Anita Selicka: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Kim Smedslund: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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2. Welcoming refugees and economic migrants in rural areas

This theme was led by Hela Sverige ska leva HSSL, Rural Sweden – the Swedish rural movement, and the Project Manager was Josefin Heed of HSSL. The work involved project partners from Austria, Estonia, Finland, Serbia, Turkey, Hungary and Slovenia and 41 participants from 10 countries plus wider conference delegates, in surveys, workshops, lectures, webinars and participation in conferences at European and national levels. 

The project aims were:

  • To clarify key issues of integration and inclusion of asylum seekers and economic migrants in rural areas
  • To identify and document case studies of successful integration through community action
  • To offer conclusions on what could be done on a political level to help integration of newly arrived in rural areas.
  • To prepare a report to disseminate the findings of the project (key issues, case studies and propositions of statements for the European Rural Parliament).

The project gathered examples, experience and knowledge from rural Europeans who are working with initiatives to welcome refugees and migrants into their communities. Conclusions identified experience, good practice, obstacles and challenges and support needs. In summary, rural Europe has a great potential to welcome refugees and migrants and provide a good life. If authorities do their job in the establishment and cooperate with local volunteers, the people in the local community can create good conditions for the rest. The rural movements of Europe could create better conditions for local volunteers by developing a toolbox of good practices, creating exchanges of experiences through conferences and webinars and to spread the point of view that newcomers contribute to the society rather than creating problems.  It is also important that we work with advocacy to change policies concerning how we welcome refugees and migrants.

For further information please contact Josefin Heed: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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3. Tackling poverty and social exclusion in rural areas

This theme was led by the Polish Rural Forum FAOW and involved partners from. The Project Managers were Ryszard Kaminski President of the board of the Polish Rural Forum. The work involved partners from Hungary, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Latvia, Serbia, Albania and Slovenia, plus participants from cooperating organisations from Georgia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and UK.  In total 119 people from 11 countries were involved in:

  • a two-day practitioners’ workshop in Kraków (25-27 June) with discussion, case studies and study visit
  • virtual debate on a specially designed discussion forum (in Polish and English)
  • virtual debates in national languages (in some countries)
  • an internet survey available from the same website as the virtual debate.

FAOW established cooperation with universities to participate in the work on this theme, and the two-day practitioners’ workshop in June 2017, was attended by approximately 40 practitioners and researchers from Poland and 5 other countries. You can find pictures from the event here

Conclusions identified the types, experiences and causes of exclusion, recommendations and good practice.

Poverty is relatively more frequent in many countries in rural areas than in large cities (eg. Poland 10% v 1%). In many places, traditional ways of ensuring social security for family members and villagers have ceased to function. State aids do not work everywhere. Globalization and attraction to large centres, means rural areas face the challenge of depopulation and consequent restriction of services. Village inhabitants are aging and services are rarely adapted to the needs of this age group. Poverty is not the only cause of social exclusion, age (children and the elderly), disabled people and ethnic minorities are particularly threatened by social exclusion. The problems are serious, but cases of good practice prove that innovative solutions can be found to deal with old and new challenges. Responses must be tailored to the specific local conditions, regardless of their universality, the proposed solutions to be effective should take into account the local context and the nuanced nature of the situation. A broad, open debate on social exclusion in the countryside is needed. For the new programming period after 2020, the European Union should develop better instruments to exploit the potential of European rural areas, which through social exclusion is not used. The most effective form of action is prevention.

For further information please contact: Ryszard Kaminski - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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4. Sustaining rural services and infrastructure

This theme was led by Action with Communities in Rural England ACRE. The Project Manager was Deborah Clarke of ACRE. The project had partners in 8 countries: Armenia, England, Germany, Latvia, Moldova, Slovakia, Turkey and Wales. It involved 422 people from 12 countries in survey, research and a final conference. Conclusions identified service priorities, policy and support needs.

Services and infrastructure are important to everyone, and to rural residents, but raise different issues. Part of the work aimed 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 were:

  • 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.

The key findings of the research, and the message taken to the 2017 European Rural Parliament were:

  • Where spatial factors indicative of rurality impede the socio-economic wellbeing of rural communities, public policy instruments seeking to redress this are found often to be wanting.
  • Investment in rural people is fundamental to success of infrastructure and services – and this is not happening sufficiently.
  • There is much potential in the creation of rural strategies, at local level, enabling priority setting which augments that of national and international bodies.

For further information please contact Deborah Clarke: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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5. Strengthening local and sub regional economies

This theme is led by PREPARE and the Slovenian Rural Network. The Project Manager was Goran Šoster.  The project involved 324 people from 8 countries in survey, interviews, study, travelling workshop. An international event was held in connection with the Slovenian Rural Parliament 21-22 September, 2017.

The aims of the project were:

  • 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 report the results and recommendations to the 3rd European Rural Parliament

Conclusions identified key issues, local initiatives, drivers, potential and good practice.

Recommendations included:

  • International exchange on good practice - ERP as a European platform.
  • Efficient flow of knowledge and information through digital networks across Europe.
  • Tools to strengthen local economies in policies and programmes. ERP advocate for in EU programmes.
  • ERP partners promote good international practices to governments to improve support for local economies.
  • Strengthen and mainstream programmes and policies which link bottom-up initiatives and solutions with top-down measures.
  • Take a holistic approach to clarifying social, environmental, economic factors enabling rural communities, enterprises and others to shape and apply solutions for strengthening local economies.
  • A supportive business environment, facilities and networks are needed to speed rural job creation.
  • Local embeddedness increases resilience and benefits to the region from global engagement.
  • To improve welfare, resources should be exploited in sustainable way, using common management.
  • North-South and East-West differences can be used as the learning arena.

For further information please contact Goran Šoster: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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

This theme was led by ELARD, the European LEADER Association for Rural Development. The Project Manager was Kadri Tillemann, ELARD. The project involved 505 direct and 2000 indirect participants from 25 countries, in surveys, conference, research, travelling workshops and reports. Conclusions identified proposals for Leader/CLLD, national policy, transnational cooperation.

The activities are a combination of two themes within the European Rural Manifesto:
Integrated rural development, based on a definition as being an ongoing process involving local stakeholders aiming to improve the lives of people living in rural areas, and for this part of the work 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
  • LEADER and CLLD (Community Led Local Development) principles defined by their advocacy for a territorial, integrated and partnership-based approach to rural development, pursued in a bottom-up and place-based spirit. For this part of the work the main aim will be:
  • 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.
  • to seek and provide suggestions to how to improve the use of CLLD and Multi-funding

The first international event for this theme was “Renewing LEADER/CLLD for 2020+” held in Tartu in November 2016, resulting in the Tartu Declaration. The second international event “Role of bottom-up approach renewing ESI Funds for 2021-2027” was held in Brussels on 31 May 2017, see programme here.

A survey was established to find the cases showing good results by using integrated development, this survey was aimed at our ERP Partners and ELARD members, and was completed by 30 June. Another survey was established for wider participation to establish the state of integrated development processes throughout Europe.

For further information please contact Kristiina Tammets: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Triin Lääne: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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