The 335 participants representing 38 European countries included rural inhabitants, representatives of civil society organisations, researchers, national governments and European Union institutions. This was preceded on November 4-6 by the 2nd European Rural Youth Parliament ERYP, in which 70 young delegates from 14 countries gathered to share their perspective on rural life. The 2nd European Rural Youth Parliament issued a Declaration with 10 calls for action regarding the most urgent challenges faced by young Europeans.
Before agreeing on the Rural People´s Declaration of Candás Asturias on 9th November, the participants discussed the current situaion. What is the political and economic price to pay for exits, exodus and rising populism? Are national governments and EU too attached to growth thinking combined with a dominating urban agenda? Is sectoral thinking, programming, management and financing the best solution for rural communities and economy?
The Declaration suggests working together in partnership for a “real” Rural Agenda for 2021-2027, recognising the critical importance of rural areas whilst opening the path for flexible, decentralised, territorial and place-based solutions where all stakeholders cooperate for the common good. Strategic, economic, environmental and social plans would take into account the variety of rural realities, even declining ones. We must be ready to better meet existing and upcoming challenges such as ageing, social exclusion, immigration, exodus, food security, environment and climate change. New technologies and faster connections bring opportunities, but these are and will probably be unequal in Europe.
Speaking to the 4th ERP, Mihail Dumitru, Deputy Director General of DG Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission, supported the value of the ERP in bringing together so many countries and people across Europe with a common passion for the maintenance of our rural territories. The new Commission for 2019-2024 is tasked with “developing a new long-term vision for rural areas and ensuring that the needs of rural areas are specifically catered for in national Strategic Plans under the new CAP” .
The ERP partners will now work to ensure that the voices and messages of the 4th ERP Gathering will be heard in the corridors of power in Brussels and also in the national governments across Europe.