Welcome to the Charter of European Rural Communities
We are an organisation of 28 towns and villages from across Europe. Each town or village is represented through their municipality or council. Only one town or village represents their country. As a consequence, this member community is unique to their own country. We started in 1989 as 12 villages. It was the concept of the French village of Cissé and was born from the European Union’s Twinning process. However, unlike the typical twinning processes whereby we partner with a community from our neighbouring countries, we partner together with every country in the European Union.
Through each municipality council or administration, each member village represents their country to this unique organisation. As the European Union has grown, so to has our organisation. When a country becomes an inscription state to the European Union, we invite a village or municipality in that country to become part of our family. The most recent new members to our family are Slivo Pole in Bulgaria and Tisno in Croatia.
Welcome to the Charter of European Rural Communities!
How we meet and come together
We meet several times each year hosted by one of our member towns under the title of People meet People. Usually during each summer period, there is one big Annual Meeting. At this meeting, eight Youth and Adult Delegates from each member municipality represent their country. The meeting takes place over a period of five days. This year Põlva in Estonia hosted the Annual Meeting from 18th to 22nd July.
We typically also have two or three small Adult Meetings and two or three small Youth Meetings each year. Again these are hosted one of our member municipalities. Four delegates from a smaller number of member municipalities are invited and attend. This ensures there is the complete opportunity for all our municipalities to meet and celebrate each others culture, through sharing in the organised programme of activities; talk of how we live our daily lives; how we celebrate our cultures; and of course by spending time with each other. Each Small Meeting takes place over a period of four days. The next meeting will be the Youth Meeting hosted by Næstved Municipality in Denmark from 25th to 28th April.
The Meetings are an important connectivity for the citizens of Europe. It allows the citizens to make and renew strong friendships. We express this through many shared activities, including staying with host families. Host families are a very important part of the European Charter. It allows visiting delegates to truly experience the culture of the host country through a complete immersion in the daily life of that culture. We meet, discuss and share daily lives at the kitchen table. In this way we become lifelong friends and a part of the Charter family.
Youth & Adult Programmes
The Meetings are are part of two year programmes called Citizens for Europe Programmes. These are arranged with the European Commission. We collectively seek to understand what it means to be European from the point of view of a small community. We do his through formal discussions and programmes, for example on society; economy; environment. The chosen topic or theme runs for two years, in which it is operated as a series of sub-themes at each meeting. It is always current and relevant to important issues trending at that time across Europe.
At the conclusion of each two year programme period, a report is detailing results and recommendations is complied and submitted to the European Commission. In this way, all member municipalities across each EU country, and at small town level, represent the over 500 million citizens of the European Union on topics and issues relevant to all EU citizens. While rules and regulations can be implemented by the European Union that affects all of it’s citizens, the results of the two year programmes can provide a real-time and real-life measure of these impacts at local community level, and in this way improve the life styles for all EU citizens.
There are always two Charter Programmes – Youth (18 – 30 years) and Adults. As future leaders it is fundamental our Youth are given a strong voice. The Charter of European Rural Communities supports the Youth and Youth Programmes in every way. The Charter Youth have a Youth Co-ordination Team or YCT, composed of youth members from across Europe. They furthermore have a voice on the Charter Presidium.
As with the Adult Programme, the Youth Programme also runs for a period of two years. It is managed and co-ordinated by the YCT. The results of the Youth Programme are also submitted to the European Commission. As an adult the Charter bolsters learning and knowledge of the ‘who, what and how” in Europe. Who the people are, what they do and how they live their everyday lives. For our Youth who participate in the Youth Meetings, it gives so much more. They learn that cultural differences do not lead to cultural divide. They encompass the belief that, whoever you are, wherever you come from, working hard and getting along with others can enables them to achieve their goals. Our Youth become a more tolerant and accepting adults. Their participation opens their horizons – and understand that, beyond their home countries, there is a world of opportunity. The Charter allows them to see outside of the tunnel vision, that youth are often accused of, which creates a hard border between adults and youth. Our Youth gain a better understanding that we are all people with aspirations and dreams but need to support and to stand with each other to create the stage that life will be played out on.
Our Youth find that with the Charter, by living in a rural community, it is no longer a stumbling block in life. In fact, as a collection of the rural communities in Europe, the Charter has been a springboard of learning, knowledge, understanding, compassion and personal growth…
Friends of Europe
As the European Union grows with new member countries, our role always becomes increasingly relevant to enabling connectivity in Europe. Part of this connectivity has seen the birth and growth of the Friends of Europe Associations, which is part of our Charter.
Because of the popularity of the Charter Meetings, frequently there are many more people from the municipalities who wish to attend than there are places available. Part of the function of the Friends of Europe Associations is to arrange their groups to visit and host visits between the member municipalities and celebrate and foster friendships across Europe.
The Associations also cultivate and encourage additional programmes such as exchanges of friendships, schools, sports clubs and participation in each municipalities’ festivals. Some Friends of Europe Associations also organisation the selection or voting of who will be the delegates to attend the Charter Meetings.