The European Rural Parliament (ERP) has emerged from a movement of rural people getting organized on the local, regional, national and European level to remind governments that urban agglomerations are not the only place to live and be, but that rural regions and people have much to offer to society and to current challenges.
This movement started in the 1980s in Sweden, where rural people opposed the one-sided attitude of politicians that farming and farmers were the only relevant activity and reason to live in rural regions. The first rural parliament took place in Sweden, then followed by similar movements and rural parliaments in the whole of Scandinavia, the Baltic countries and then mainly in the new member states of the EU, now also including the West Balkans, and finally more West European countries.
The European Rural Parliament has emerged from these national rural movements and is now a long-term campaign with bi-annual gatherings, promoting self-help and action by rural residents, in partnership with civil society, with national governments and EU Institutions. The European Citizens Program and contributions from hosts and participants of the events support the gatherings financially. European Rural Parliaments have so far taken place in Brussels, Austria, the Netherlands and in Spain.
The 4th ERP was preceded by a meeting of 70 rural young people from 16 countries across the continent. Hosted by the Latvian Rural Forum, the European Rural Youth Parliament worked with established focus areas: diverse opportunities for economic activities; sustainable food and agriculture system; infrastructural and digital connectivity; accessibility and quality of public services; and civic engagement and political awareness.
Over the course of 2 days, the European Rural Youth Parliament heard from experts in the field of rural development and exchanged views on the critical challenges and opportunities facing the various corners of rural Europe. With the intention of improving the lives of young people in rural areas and strengthening their voice in regional, national and European decision-making, they produced the ERYP Youth Declaration.
Attended by more than 300 participants from 38 European countries, the recently organized 4th ERP in Candas (Asturias) focused on rural policy, the new CAP proposals but also on the emerging signs of a rural renaissance; it covered the new approach to renationalizing CAP, but also included a rich programme of cultural activities.
The concluding European Rural Parliament (ERP) declaration called for “a truly attuned rural agenda” between civil society and the political organizations that design policies, where “inclusive cooperation and partnership at all levels are combined to ensure that rural Europe thrives”.
This document is not only addressed to the EU, but also, prepared from the ground up, aims to reach the level of local, regional and national administrations, bearing in mind that more countries participated in the ERP than the members of the European Union. It resumes the debates on which work was carried out throughout the week, both in the Youth Parliament and in the subsequent one, on the current trends posed by the challenges faced by the European rural population. Answers to questions such as: what is the political and economic price to pay for departures, exodus and growing populism? – are national governments and the EU too attached to thinking about growth combined with a dominant urban agenda? – is sectoral thinking, programming, management and financing the best solution for rural communities and the economy? are mirrored in the diverse demands and proposals.
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