On April 11 and 12, 2019, ENRD organised in Brussels an event NetworX – inspiring rural Europe event. Euromontana actively participated to those two inspiring days of rural networking.
Networking to “de-Brusselize” rural development
The event was placed under the core objective to connect stakeholders and to bring rural development policy out of Brussels. Many challenges emerged from the floor during this 2-day event, such as promoting a real multisectoral approach to rural development and building networks beyond regional or national borders. These issues were also raised by Mihail Dumitru, Deputy Director-General, DG AGRI. He invited rural development stakeholders to address the issues by building on their past successes. He also called for demonstrating the variety of topics in rural development from bioeconomy to transports. He ensured that flexibility will exist between the two pillars of the future CAP, enabling a holistic vision of rural economy. Dumitru also announced the launch of a pilot communication campaign from the European Commission to highlight the potentials of rural, coastal and mountain areas.
Did you know about mountain products?
During this two-day event, Euromontana held a stand at the Marketplace to highlight the environmental, social and economic benefits of mountain products. Identifying those products was one of the challenges for visitors, whom we invited to take part in various games and activities at our stand.
Protecting mountain products with the optional quality term is a way to counteract the fraudulent use of the term “mountain” products. By ensuring the EU-wide, common understanding of a mountain product, the term not only justifies the higher price asked for by their producers but also guarantees the quality of products offered to their consumers. According to our last analysis of the state of play, 50% of the EU mountainous countries have already or are currently implementing the EU regulation on the optional quality term. Since other countries still need to implement the regulation, Euromontana also invited the visitors of our stand to sign the Charter for mountain quality food products.
Networking for policy
One of the first parallel sessions of the event was related to the of role networking on policy development and implementation of the smart villages concept. The participants had the opportunity to get familiar with real-life examples related to:
- social and territorial innovation
- digital innovation
- smart rural businesses
- services innovation
ENRD invited Euromontana to present the SIMRA project – Social Innovation in Marginalised and Rural Areas – as an example of an initiative for social and territorial innovation. The interactive format allowed for an exchange between the participants and presenters on hands-on issues with some recommendations including but not limited to:
- Trial and error process with an iterative approach and learning from (even celebrating) failures
- Inclusion of various stakeholders and formation of unconventional alliances
- Rebalancing the attention from technological to social aspects within the concept of smart villages
Inspiration for rural vitality
On April 11, 2019, there was also time to celebrate rural initiatives from across Europe during the Rural Inspiration Awards ceremony. presided by Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. The first edition of the Award started with the idea of showcasing and promoting the most inspiring initiatives funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). It also demonstrates the contribution of Rural Development policy towards a more competitive, sustainable and inclusive rural Europe.
Euromontana had the pleasure to be part of the jury selecting 5 winners from the shortlist of 25 initiatives out of the 176 proposed by the National Rural Networks. The 2019 winners in the 5 categories are:
- Improving the competitiveness of rural areas: AGROBERRY
- Environment and climate action: Kowalski Farm
- Rural revitalisation: Kuitua Pohjoiseen
- Social inclusion: Enerterre
- LEADER/CLLD: Tiges Chavées
Looking forward to the rural futures
While the next steps as for the networking on the European level for rural development and its relationship with the future CAP network need still to be defined, the Networx event turned out to be a great success. The event proved the need for an exchange on the topic beyond national boundaries. The variety and outreach of various national and other rural networks reminded once again of opportunities in the rural territories. While the agriculture plays there an important role, it is not the only factor of success. With rather gloomy forecasts on the short and medium term when it comes to the population trends and outmigration in the coming years, we need to work together even closer to make rural areas attractive and vibrant for us and future generations.
18 April 2019