Grant agreement: 2015-3362/001-001
Over 77% of the EU’s territory is classified as rural and is home to around half its population (farming communities and residents). During these last decades the rural communities were severely affected due to urbanization. The continued depopulation of many peripheral communities has affected negatively the rural economies, rural services and the architectural and natural heritage. All participating municipalities have been affected by this phenomenon and through the transnational meetings sharing of knowledge and best practices were discussed.
The aim of this project was to bring citizens from these rural villages to discuss how to revive and strengthen the economies of Europe’s rural villages and shaping the future of a better European countryside. The project focused on the farming policy, the capacity of rural tourism and the natural and cultural heritage of small villages, with reference to various policies, these were achieved through the various discussions and visits to establishments, business operations and cultural centres were through the discussions one learn t on how locals are taking measure to reverse the problems associated with rural communities.
The project, involved 7 organizations from Malta, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Czech Republic and Portugal, which included six different events and the creation of a hand book, that will target different sectors that contribute to the economies and livelihoods of the citizens. These are:
– Agriculture: changing the emphasis from quantity of food to quality of food;
– Manufacturing, craft and service industries: revival of local economies;
– Rural Tourism: new income;
– The natural and cultural heritage: preserving the heritage of wildlife, landscape and culture;
– Rural Housing and services: modern amenities vs respecting local traditions of building.
The project had 343 participants attending the transnational meetings which included 158 females, 185 males of which 53 from disadvantaged groups. The target groups were: Councillors, researchers, academics and policy makers, farmers and farmers cooperatives, entrepreneurs and small businesses in the manufacturing, crafts and service industries; stakeholders in the tourism sector; Non-governmental organizations (NGOs); architects, builders and environmentalists; and pensioners (to share their past experiences).
European citizenship and how to improve conditions for civic and democratic participation at Union level, included the participation of citizens at Union level, by developing citizens’ understanding of the Union policy making-process and promoting opportunities for societal and inter cultural engagement and volunteering at Union level were reached through the various discussions on the Future of Europe focusing on rural villages was reached and this project brought citizens from six different European Member States to discuss the common difficulties that these localities are facing. By creating workshops and panel discussions the different stakeholders discussed particular issues and how these will affect them. The organisation of the seminars, workshops, panel discussions and visits encouraged citizens to participate and give their feedback on various policy issues which were discussed in the project. It also created a plethora of opportunities for local citizens to participate and explain how such measures will affect their income, expenses and lifestyle. The 343 participants from different European countries, shared a lot of common values, facing similar problems and could understand and assist one other.
Through this project the different stakeholders from different EU Member States together managed to discuss EU assistance through policies and funds which help European citizens to implement projects that will increase their standard of living. Understanding of the Union policy making-process and promoting societal and inter cultural engagement was reached through the cultural events sharing different history, culture and languages. Although they have different backgrounds, together they managed to address common problems. The handbook created cover the activities of the whole project and include policy recommendations and the different approaches that different countries will take due to the different in cultures/climates. The methods used during the project include various models in order to make sure that all participants network with other citizens from other states. The aim of this project was to present a comprehensive programme of activities that bring citizens together to discuss, share best practices and to discuss opportunities for the future.
The project also addressed various EU policies such as the ‘EU Rural Development Strategy’, the Rural Tourism Policy, The Cultural Heritage Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. The aim was to discuss these policy documents and assess whether they are still relevant to the present needs of each locality. Together they discussed and presented policy recommendations on how to adopt sustainable economic activities in our rural villages that may guarantee a prosperous future.
During the project we also analysed the present situation in each rural village and together planned for a better future in these rural villages and new project ideas to be presented together in future calls.