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“We are here to find solutions”: Intergroup on SMART Villages for Rural Communities – Sparsely populated, Mountainous And Rural Territories

Intergroup – A parliamentary tool for the development of mountain areas
Intergroups are trans partisan working group of the European Parliament, enabling MEPs from various countries and political groups to discuss current challenges. Although they are not official bodies of the European Parliament, they highly contribute to parliamentary debates by encouraging concrete solution-oriented approach and discussions between MEPs and civil society organisations like Euromontana.

 

On July 16, 2019, not only did the European Parliament in Strasbourg witness the election of the new President of the European Commission but also the inaugural event of the new intergroup – SMART Villages for Rural Communities for Sparsely populated, Mountainous And Rural Territories.

The successful lunch-debate, hosted by the Members of the European Parliament Franc Bogovič (EPP) and Engin Ergolu (RE), brought together representatives of various political parties including Mairead McGuiness (EPP, Vice-President of the European Parliament), Clara Aguilera (S&D), Tomislav Sokol (EPP), Tom Berendsen (EPP), and Sheila Ritchie (RE). As for civil society organisations, Euromontana attended the event together with R.E.D., the FREE initiative and the SSPA network while the EUMA association attended as an observer.

In his passionate keynote speech starting the event, MEP Bogovič stressed the need for the narrative of the territories outside of the urban areas to be further developed in a positive light and with focus on solutions and opportunities. “This project is about societal change, it is about the people living in these territories”.

The concept of Smart Villages, which MEP Bogovič initiated in the previous legislature together with former MEP Tibor Szanyi, makes a good base for it with the visibility already noticeable on the European policy scene. Euromontana welcomes the statement and shares the approach – mountains are to be seen as a differentiating and not a limiting factor. Further on, former MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij and György Mudri, guests at the event, presented their recently published books on Smart Villages. An exchange of opinions among participating guests followed. It showed the variety and diversity of needs in the territories and proved the usefulness of such an informal platform of encounter. It holds true for both MEPs working with colleagues from other political groups and for supporting organizations like Euromontana having more influence and impact for the mountain-related policy. You can read more information on the event on the intergroup website.

SMART Villages for Rural Communities builds on the achievements of the intergroup RUMRA (2014 – 2019), including the adoption in 2018 of a European Parliament Resolution on addressing the specific needs of rural, mountainous and remote areas. This is also reflected in the Manifesto of the new intergroup.

 

 

SMART Villages for Rural Communities Manifesto, fragments:

SMART Villages for Rural Communities promotes integrated development for European territories in all their diversity. The Intergroup enables exchanges on innovative ways to create vibrant and attractive rural communities. It encourages new ways of governance and cooperation in EU territories, through place-based initiatives and the use of technology. The Intergroup aims to strengthen integration and ensure a sustainable future for all Europeans.

The well-being of all Europeans relies on the diversity of the EU territories. The EU needs to engage with rural communities in order to reach its economic, social, political and environmental goals:

  • In their everyday life, EU citizens and businesses largely depend on rural areas for food, land use, energy, water, clean air and raw materials.
  • Stronger urban-rural cooperation is needed to ensure territorial cohesion and sustainable development across the EU.
  • Sparsely populated, mountainous and rural territories are a source of creativity and innovation, in which a large part of the European cultural and natural heritage is rooted.
  • SMART Rural Communities are an integral part of the European project.

You can find the entire Manifesto here.

 

SMART Villages for Rural Communities is the third intergroup supported by Euromontana which directly addresses the issues of mountainous territories:

  • The first intergroup on mountain-related topics, Intergroup 174, was set up back in 2009 with some supporting MEPs re-elected until today, like mentioned earlier and present at the event Mairead McGuiness (EPP, Vice-President of the European Parliament).
  • The second intergroup, RUMRA, was chaired by former MEP Mercedes Bresso and vice-chaired, among others, by MEP Franc Bogovič.

The benefits of being part of an intergroup are numerous. Apart from the resolution, the RUMRA intergroup helped in improving the visibility of mountain areas’ specific needs and facilitating the access to MEPs and other stakeholders in the European Commission or Committee of the Regions. Through the organization of various events during the last mandate, the intergroup proved to be an efficient platform to address specific questions related to territorial cohesion, social innovation and smart development of mountain areas.
With the new intergroup SMART Villages for Rural Communities for Sparsely Populated, Mountainous and Rural Territories, Euromontana and associated organisations wish to find tailored innovative solutions for the development of Europe’s mountain areas. MEPs will have the chance to discuss the topic during plenary sessions in Strasbourg and on different occasions with partners organisations. A second event of the intergroup is already planned for September.

More MEPs are invited to join this exciting and very much needed initiative for the mountain areas and not only. Help us grow SMART Europe in its territorial diversity today for the wellbeing of all Europeans tomorrow by disseminating the intergroup manifesto and encouraging your MEP to join us!

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25 July 2019

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