Scotland was represented at the European Rural Parliament (ERP) in Kielce, Poland, this month. A team of delegates from rural and island Scotland, representing a range of organisations and institutions including Scottish Rural Action, Scottish Rural Network, Scottish Islands Federation, the Rural Youth Project, Rural Housing Scotland, and CoDel, joined 350 others, from 40 countries, over the course of 4 days.
But what is the European Rural Parliament itself, and why did we go?
The ERP is a long-term, grassroots-driven process to express the voice of rural and island people in Europe and help mobilise rural and island communities in partnership with civil society and governments. The European Commission has recognised it and its constituent networks as a key partner in achieving its long term vision for rural areas. This gives the European Rural Parliament influence and status within European policymaking.
The ERP is coordinated by the following bodies:
- The European Rural Community Alliance (ERCA): a coalition of country-specific organisations, including Scottish Rural Action, which all support rural mobilisation;
- PREPARE Partnership for Rural Europe: similar to ERCA, a coalition which serves mainly Eastern European and Balkan organisations; and
- The European LEADER Association for Rural Development (ELARD).
The main event of the European Rural Parliament (ERP) cycle is organised every two years in a different rural location. It results in a Declaration that may be used as a lobbying and awareness-raising tool. The Declaration is backed by a more detailed Manifesto which is updated and re-adopted at each ERP main event.
We were delighted that Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, funded this delegation to represent the country at the 5th ERP. Ms Gougeon has also supported an Expression of Interest to bring the European Rural Parliament to Scotland in 2024.
We will publish a report on our shared learning and experiences, and how these relate to and can be strengthened in Scotland, but we would like to take this opportunity to thank those who supported our delegation. We were inspired by the opportunity to share stories, ideas and solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our rural communities.