ECOVAST, which is a founder partner of PREPARE, sends warm greetings to all who are attending the 4th European Rural Parliament.

We believe that the central mission of the ERP – to raise the voice, and promote the well-being, of rural people throughout Europe – has never been more vital. Since the 1st ERP in 2013, our family of organisations has drawn attention to the forces which can adversely affect rural communities everywhere; but also to the crucial positive contribution which rural areas make to the well-being of all Europeans.

ECOVAST’s contribution to this great campaign has focused on small towns, which serve as crucial centres of social, economic and cultural life in many rural regions. Through our ASSET project (Action to Strengthen Small European Towns), we have widely publicised the importance of small towns, and the key role which they can play.

Since the 3rd ERP in 2017, we have all become acutely aware of the new threats and new opportunities presented by climate change, the waste of resources and the devastating loss of biodiversity. We know that we in Europe must sharply reduce our use of fossil fuels; use more wisely the precious resources of the world; clean up our polluted land and waters; protect wildlife and enrich habitats.

By good fortune, these global imperatives strongly reinforce the case for the policies and actions that we have all been advocating through the European Rural Manifesto.

For example rural communities can help to reduce the need for, and the use of, fossil fuels by producing renewable energy from wind, water, solar panels, the forests and geothermal sources. We can change to sustainable methods of farming. We can plant more forests, and manage our existing woodlands in ways which capture carbon and which reduce the risk of wildfires.

We can strengthen and diversify our rural economies, and redouble our efforts to sustain rural services, so that people do not need to travel from their homes to school, shop or work and can therefore economise on the use of fossil fuel. In our continuing work on small towns, ECOVAST will strongly emphasise the vital importance of resilient local economies and local communities.

Michael Dower
Past President, European Council for the Village and Small Town (ECOVAST)

Michael Dower