Why is networking of the important issue in rural development?

Rural development is very often viewed in the public and even by professionals in such a way that it is reduced only to agriculture and / or economic activity, or just to the infrastructure. In reality, rural development encompasses every segment of the lives of rural communities, including the daily services needed by the rural population (education, health, social protection ...), the economic activities that local people are dealing with, and the part of the activities that contribute to the added quality of life sport, culture, social life, infrastructure ...).

Bearing this in mind, it is unrealistic to expect that only one or a few institutions or individuals can successfully deal with rural development at the level of one community, region, country or European Union. Accordingly, the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) organized the networX meeting in Brussels. This event has an objective to review the results of rural networking in Europe over the last ten years.

The event was organized on 11 and 12 April 2019, and the representative of the Rural Development Network of Serbia, Dragan Roganovic, as well as representatives of all other networks from the Western Balkans, attended the networX meeting. The participation of delegations of rural networks in the Western Balkans has been supported by the DG Agri (European Union) and by the project "SEDRA - Support to the economic diversification in Southeast Europe" implemented by GIZ and SWG.

This event, which brought together over 400 stakeholders from all over Europe, including Balkan rural development networks, was a great opportunity for presenters of these networks to present their work on the Marketplace, where 41 stands showed the breadth of rural networking across the EU and with neighbouring countries.

Representatives of the Balkan Rural Development Network also had the opportunity, thanks to the interactive format of the meeting, to get acquainted with the experiences of others, as well as to exchange views and attitudes during the organized discussions on the following topics:

• the role of networking for rural policy;
• how to build / transform a network;
• networking for innovation in agriculture and rural areas;
• networking through LEADER and community led local development;
• networking for evaluation; and
• effective stakeholder engagement in networks.

This event provides opportunities for Western Balkan rural development networks to learn about local community initiatives to improve living conditions, about activities of Local Action Groups from Europe, learn about current and future EU policies from presentations of EU representatives, about learned lesson in a successful project presented in the Market place as well as during the thematic workshops. Also, ideas for joint initiatives with several LAGs and networks that were present at the event were also agreed.

During the event, representatives of rural networks of the Western Balkans had the opportunity to hold a meeting with DG-Agri to discuss Networks in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

The following points were discussed:

• State of play of Technical Assistance under IPARD in each country, and the possibility to finance Rural Networks under IPARD;
• Rural Networks - outsourced or within the Ministry - two options possible;
• Other possible sources of financing (if TA not yet accredited);
• Scope of work (thematic priorities) for Networks from IPARD countries.

Also the event hosted the final ceremony of the Rural Inspiration Awards where five rural development projects were selected from nominated initiatives from all over Europe in the following five categories:

1. improving rural area competitiveness (with the winner coming from Spain);
2. environment and climate action (Poland);
3. rural revitalisation (Finland);
4. social inclusion (France); and
5. LEADER activities (Belgium).

Key moments from the event are available in this short video clip.

Further details are available at European Network for Rural Development.