The 3rd European Rural Parliament took place on 18-21 October 2017 in Venhorst in the Netherlands. The European Rural Parliament is a long-term campaign to express the voice of rural people in Europe; and to promote self-help and action by the rural people, in partnership with civil society and governments. During these four days, around 250 participants from over 40 countries, representing mainly rural communities but also European networks, discussed in a number of workshops and plenary sessions the future of rural Europe.
The European Rural Parliament is an initiative of several pan-European NGOs dealing with rural development: the European LEADER Association for Rural Development (ELARD), the European Rural Communities Alliance (ERCA) and Partnership for Rural Europe (PREPARE). It aims to strengthen the voice of rural communities and promote bottom-up initiatives. The ERP meetings (organised every two years) are the culmination of a long process of debates on different themes at local, regional, national and transnational levels.
Regarding local and rural development in Europe, the LEADER-CLLD approach received special attention from participants and was the focus of several workshops. In one of these Workshops under the facilitation of Kristiina Tammets (ELARD Presidency), participants discussed and co-designed a new model for the coming programming period 2020-2026. A new CLLD-fund is the core element of the developed proposal, which shall be funded by 10% of each, already existing ESI-funds (ERDF, ESF, EAFRD and EMFF). Additionally this CLLD-fund requires a new set of own rules which implements effective simplification and allows an authentic rollout of the LEADER-CLLD principles at the local and community level. RDPs at national level may continue offering the implementation structure and rules for the CLLD-fund; anyhow, the specific measures are to be decided by the LAGs by means of their local development strategies. ELARD will undertake contacts and discussions with EU-commission representatives in the coming weeks based on the developed proposal.
The “Venhorst Declaration”
On the last day of the EPR participants adopted the “Venhorst Declaration”, calling – among other things – for a single CLLD Fund in the next programming period, bringing together significant slice of the four funds and managed according to unified rules at the EU and national level.
The relevant sections of the Declaration go as follows:
“The ERP meeting in Venhorst revealed the enthusiasm of rural citizens to engage for their communities and to develop multiple initiatives to strengthen the vitality of rural areas. We call on governments and European institutions to:
– recognise the importance of the local level for developing creative, open and tailor-made strategies;
– invest in capacity building and support of those citizens who are ready to engage and invest a considerable part of their free time for the community;
– reinforce multi-level partnerships of public, private and civil society actors; and equip these partnerships to provide the missing link between policies at national or regional level and grass roots initiatives at local level
– add value to local assets: priority should be given to investments which increase community knowledge and capacity and enhance the sustainable use of strategic assets such as high-quality landscapes, cultural heritage, broadband, food and waste.
(…) These purposes should be reflected through a fund for Community Led Local Development, building on the long experience of the LEADER approach. We propose that the European Union should establish a separate Fund for community-led local development, with matching national or regional programmes in member states (see Tartu declaration). This Fund should receive a significant proportion of all European Structural Investment funds. Its use should be earmarked for the objectives set by community-led strategies, with no distinction or demarcation between the different ESI funds. The funds should be deployed on a decentralised basis, through local partnerships, so that local strategies can respond to local needs and challenges.”
A final version of the current European Rural Manifesto updated the document prepared after the Second European Rural Parliament in Shärding, Austria in 2015.