Michael Dower

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Our wonderful friend, mentor and supporter, Michael Dower, sadly passed away on Monday November 7, 2022, just a week before his 89th birthday. In his lifetime, Michael was a force in European rural development. He was instrumental in developing the European Rural Parliament partnership and process, including co-ordinating and writing the foundational document ‘All Europe shall Live’, based on a survey of all of our European Partners, from which he developed the first ERP Manifesto at the 2nd ERP Gathering in Austria in 2015. These have remained our baseline documents.

In addition to the ERP, Michael’s work in rural development was extensive. He co-founded and served as coordinator of PREPARE - Pre-accession Partnership for Rural Europe, supporting the launch of many national and regional rural movements and rural parliaments in Central and Eastern Europe. He founded and served as President of ECOVAST – the European Council for the Village and Small Town. He co-founded and animated the European Agricultural Convention (EAC), now ARC2020. He was a very active member of Forum Synergies and many other European civic initiatives. He was co-creating the CURE - Convention for Urban and Rural Europe.

Prior to his post-retirement activism in European rural civil society, Michael managed the Peak District National Park in England; was Director General of the Countryside Commission for England and Wales; and was Professor of European Rural Development at the University of Gloucestershire. He edited and promoted the European Landscape Convention for the Council of Europe.

Michael was passionate about rural areas, their people, landscapes, land use and ecology. In the later years of his life, he worked tirelessly to advocate on the climate change emergency, and led local woodland management projects, working with school children, where he lived in Dorset, England.

Michael was, and is, an inspiration to us all. He urged us to be bold and brave and urgent in our work. His legacy lies within us and our continuing, collective work to support and develop rural Europe – our wonderful home.

Thank you Michael!

What is it?

The European Rural Parliament is a long-term campaign to express the voice of rural people in Europe; and to promote self-help and action by the rural people, in partnership with civil society and governments.

Why is it needed?

200 million people, almost one third of the population of the wider Europe, live in rural areas. They contribute strongly to local, national and European economies. Their social and economic well-being is of crucial importance. They face great challenges, including loss of young people and of rural services in many regions. Their future depends upon vigorous action by the rural communities themselves, and upon well-conceived policies and action by governments at all levels.

The ERP campaign is driven by the belief that the interests of rural communities (i.e. all people who live or work in rural regions) are under-represented in national and European debates and in the shaping of policies and programmes; that rural people themselves have the best understanding of their strengths, opportunities and needs; and that rural communities should be encouraged to take action in pursuit of their own well-being, and to be positive partners of governments at all levels.


What is its aim?

The European Rural Parliament is designed to:

  • Strengthen the voice of the rural communities of Europe, and to ensure that the interests and well-being of these communities are strongly reflected in national and European policies
  • Promote self-help, common understanding, solidarity, exchange of good practice and cooperation among rural communities throughout Europe.
  • Enable rural people to play their full role in addressing the great economic and political challenges which are currently affecting Europe. The European institutions are struggling to face these challenges. They need to connect with the concerns, the aspirations and the energies of European citizens. We wish to help in that process.

Who organises it?

The European Rural Parliament is co-initiated by three pan-European networks:

  • European Rural Community Alliance (ERCA)
  • PREPARE Partnership for Rural Europe
  • European LEADER Association for Rural Development (ELARD)

A major role in the European Rural Parliament campaign is being played by European and national partners, most of whom are members of the co-initiating networks – see Partners page for detail of these partners.

ERP Steering Group

A Steering Group is drawn from 3 representatives of each network is responsible for the strategic planning and oversight of the ERP. Each organisation is also able to supply a Joint Co-ordinator.
Current Steering Group members are:



Staffan Nilsson


Vanessa Halhead

Joint Co-ordinator

Petri Rinne




Goran Šoster


Kim Smedslund

Joint Co-ordinator

Anneli Kana




Kristiina Tammets


Kirsten Birke Lund


Pedro Brosei


In addition:


Staffan Bond

Representative of funding partner HSSL

Ben van Essen

Representative of ERP hosting partner LVKK



Former co-ordinators:
Michael Dower (PREPARE) and Kirsten Birke Lund (ELARD)

The Austrian team:
Organising the 2nd ERP in Austria (Schärding): the team was led by Thomas Müller with Lizé Grimbeek, the LAG Sauwald-Pramtal and the Highschool "HAK" Schärding.

The Dutch team:
Organising the 3rd ERP in the Netherlands: the team was led by Ingeborg Verschuuren with Ben van Essen, Judith Verbruggen, Rob Maessen, Bas Leenders.