In year 2019 we mark the 20th anniversary for PREPARE Network. The origin of PREPARE was the traveling workshop in Estonia and Sweden of 1999, aimed at civil society and government people from rural areas of the then accession countries of central Europe. The success of honourable age of PREPARE hides in the spirit of its founding organisations and of those who joined later and helped build the network.
Travelling workshop in Estonia and Sweden was initiated by Hannes Lorenzen, in his capacity with both European Parliament (which partly funded the Workshop) and Forum Synergies (then called the European Network of Experiences in Sustainable Development). To organise the event, he enlisted the help of the Swedish Branch of ECOVAST (Kjell Roger Karlsson), Hela Sverige ska Leva (Staffan Bond), and Kodukant (Mikk Saav). ECOVAST at European level (Michael Dower, then Secretary General) provided many of the contacts with people in the target countries who were participants in the Workshop.
The traveling workshop was just magic. Despite the many concerns and warnings that “traveling workshops” were never carried out by the European institutions, that insurance would not cover the risks, that public money may not be used for such a ‘school excursion’ format, this “crazy” idea of leaving everyday routines and travelling to experience rural reality, to meet, eat, talk and work with rural people was a great success. It went right into the hearts of people who might never otherwise have met – high level officials of the European Commission and the Parliament, civil servants from national ministries of agriculture, regional administration officers, local mayors, people from newly emerging civil society in the accession countries and individual rural people, including farmers, teachers, countrywomen and entrepreneurs.
During this traveling week in Estonia and Sweden, the idea grew that this group of people should continue working together through the time of transition and accession to help the new neighbours into a new common Europe; to spread the good news that rural Europe could become more democratic, more innovative and more sustainable in the best sense of the word. The European Parliament published a report about it: the European Commission suggested to broaden and apply this method; and PREPARE was born, the Pre-Accession Partnership for Europe.