The European Rural Parliament met last month in Schärding in Austria. This second meeting, unlike the first which was a single-day affair, was much like our Scottish Rural Parliament. Three-days of project visits, networking, workshops and of course, great food, drink and entertainment representing the best of rural produce and culture. The aim was to produce a manifesto which could be ‘used to influence European institutions and national and regional governments in their attitudes to, and policies for, rural communities.’
Scotland was officially represented by six people at the event, including two people from Scottish Rural Action which organises the Scottish Rural Parliament, one Scottish Government official and three people chosen to represent different demographic elements of rural Scotland – otherwise known as Amanda, Alistair, Emma, Derek, Robin and Norman.
In addition, one of our Directors, Vanessa Halhead, who was instrumental in the creation of the Scottish Rural Parliament, the European Rural Parliament and in organising this year’s event was also present throughout. Overall there were 240 people from rural communities representing 40 countries in Europe.
We arrived via different routes and different delays thanks to foggy weather to the lovely rural town of Schärding in north Austria, close to the borders of Germany and the Czech Republic. The first day was spent visiting projects in three different countries, from eco-farms to tree-top walkways (below) and experimental eco-housing.
The evening of that day was a shared meal to which each country had provided some produce. Unsurprisingly, our tablet and whisky were particularly enjoyed by those present and we had to wrangle the remains from the Turkish delegation in order to preserve some for the following night. The women’s dancing team (top) were particularly impressive and set a convivial mood for the evening.
The primary aim of this event was to agree a Manifesto for Rural Europe, which formed the basis of the following two long days of concentrated effort. Each country submitted a report before the event detailing they key challenges their rural communities face and a draft manifesto was produced from the reports. After workshops examining the 29 manifesto points and a lengthy plenary session agreeing each line of the document, it was finally agreed to the sound of trombones, cheers, and not a few sighs of relief.
As always, the secondary aims are often those which give most immediate value to those attending. Opportunities to experience Austria, learn about projects based in other countries and network across the continent bring as many benefits as any other element of the event. Scottish Rural Action is now exploring potential partnership work with UK partners, countries bordering the north Atlantic and is sharing information about how our own Rural Parliament developed with a number of countries. You can find more information and the Manifesto here: http://europeanruralparliament.com/