June 12 – 15th 2023 will see the 3rd Balkan Rural Parliament and Balkan Food Summit take place in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Organised by the Balkan Rural Development Network and the Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group in South Eastern Europe, with the support of GIZ (the German Society for International Cooperation), the summit will bring together civil society representatives, ministries for agriculture and rural development, local food producers, national governments, and EU organisations and institutions.
The Balkan Rural Parliament as a long-term campaign aims, in the spirit of rural parliaments across Europe, to express the voice of the region’s rural communities, to promote self-help and action by rural people, and to ensure that their needs and interests are reflected in rural development policies.
Discussions at the 3rd Balkan Rural Parliament and Balkan Food Summit in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina will address needs and challenges central to rural development processes in the Western Balkans, focusing on four main topics: efforts to apply the EU LEADER approach; the implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkan countries; food security and rural gastronomy as potential avenues for sustainable rural development; and challenges and opportunities for women and youth in rural areas.
The Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, which aligns with the ambitions of the EU Green Deal, includes action plans on climate, energy, mobility, circular economy, de-pollution, sustainable farming and food systems, and biodiversity protection.
A hotspot for agrobiodiversity
As highlighted in Adèle Pautrat’s account of her meeting with members of the Balkan Seed Network in Belgrade in February 2023, the Balkan region is a hotspot of agrobiodiversity.
It is thus fitting that the Balkan Food Summit (part of the Rural Parliament) aims to raise awareness of the importance of regional food systems and agrobiodiversity along with supportive policy frameworks in enhancing rural welfare, food security and food system transformation.
The main output of the 3rd Balkan Rural Parliament will be a Declaration, which will include a common position of the Western Balkan rural stakeholders as well as action points for rural communities, governments and the EU. We’ll update this article to include the Declaration once it’s available.
The Michael Dower Award for European Rural Resilience
The rural parliament concept is about bottom-up participation and debate between people on the ground and policymakers to enable better understanding and improved policy and action for rural areas. The concept can regularly be seen in motion in regional iterations like the one upcoming in Bosnia Herzegovina, and national parliaments like that which will take place in the village of Ērgļi, Latvia June 14 – 16.
Michael Dower, who died in November 2022, played an instrumental role in the launch of many national and regional Rural Parliaments, and was a strong supporter and animator of the European Rural Parliament. He also co-founded and served as coordinator of PREPARE – the Pre-accession Partnership for Rural Europe that works to promote multi-national exchange in rural development, with a main focus on the new EU member states and accession countries including the Western Balkans. The upcoming Balkan Rural Parliament would surely have been of great interest to Michael.
The Michael Dower Award for European Rural Resilience was launched in April 2023 and will be awarded to individuals and/or civil society organisations in the wider Europe, at biennial gatherings of the European Rural Parliament or other similar events.
The instigators of the award, who include the University of Gloucestershire, Michael’s family, and his friends and colleagues in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, are raising funds to support the award. They are asking for donations from those who knew Michael and those who are passionate about rural Europe. Anyone who wishes to support the award can find more information in the award booklet.