Friday, November 8

1st Plenary – ‘Opening and introduction to the 4th ERP’

Mr. Staffan Nilsson, President of European Rural Community Alliance – ERCA – and Member of ERP Steering Group

Steffan Nilsson is the President of European Rural Community Alliance, ERCA. ERCA have seats in the EU Commission network and dialogue groups for rural development. Staffan is also one of two chairman of the Swedish organisation Rural Sweden and a Former of the European Economic and Social Committee, EESC, and it’s  President 2010-13. In daily life a farmer. 

Mr. Āris Ādlers, President of Partnership for Rural Europe – PREPARE

Āris Ādlers is President of Partnership for Rural Europe – PREPARE AISBL – since November 2018. Previously PREPARE board member responsible for the Black Sea region. Āris is also Manager of the Public Private Partnership association Sernikon – Local Action group in Latvia – and is developing a dissertation in Riga Technical University on the Management of Integrated added value to Promote Economic Development.

Āris has more than 15 years’ experience in project, activities and organisational management. His main expertise covers civil society development projects and commercial product management, as well as public participation, campaigning and advocacy projects. He has experience in the development of new initiatives and organisations in the field of new IT, civil participation, partnership cooperation, municipality development and business. He also has 7 years’ experience in providing training on community and business development for community animators, members of partnerships, local development and Local Action Group facilitators.

Ms. Maria João Botelho, President of European LEADER Association for Rural Development – ELARD

Maria João Botelho is currently the President of ELARD – European LEADER Association for Rural Development (2018/2019). In Portugal she is the president of Minha Terra Federation (2016/2019) and the manager of the Rural LAG APRODER, based in Santarém.

She served as a Director of the Natural Park of Serras de Aire e Candeeiros and of the Natural Reserve of Paul do Boquilobo. She was Director of Support Services for Protected Areas at the Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests and she was Deputy Director General of Spatial Planning and Urban Development. She was a founding partner of several local development associations, such as APRODER, LEADER OESTE or ADIRN.

She integrated the Executive Committee of the Ribatejo Tourism Region, and she held multiple positions in local government, being ultimately mayor of the municipality of Cadaval. She graduated as Landscape Architect and Agriculture Engineering.

Mr. Adrián Barbón Rodríguez, President of the Government of the Principality of Asturias

Adrián Barbón Rodríguez has a degree in Law from the University of Oviedo, and also holds a Master’s Degree in Leadership (his own title from the Ideas Foundation and Rafael Campalans Foundation with the Autonomous University of Barcelona).

His political trajectory begins with his affiliation, at the age of 17, to the Socialist Youth of Asturias and, at the age of 18, to the PSOE. He has been deputy mayor of Laviana City Council (2003-2008); mayor from September 2008 until 10 October 2017, and also a member of the Federal Committee of the PSOE.

Since 17 September 2017, he has been Secretary General of the Asturian Socialist Federation (FSA-PSOE). Previously he was Secretary General of the Socialist Grouping of Laviana (2012-2017).

After the regional elections of 26 May 2019, in which he ran as candidate of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party for the Presidency of the Principality of Asturias, Adrián Barbón is a member of the General Assembly of the Principality of Asturias. And since July 20, 2019, the ninth president of the Principality of Asturias.

Mr. Petri Rinne, Member of European Rural Community Alliance – ERCA – and ERP Steering Group

Intervention: ‘The ERP – Who we are and what we have done since the 3rd ERP’

Petri Rinne works as a LEADER Local Action Group (LAG) Manager in the South-West of Finland. He has also chaired the European LAG Network ELARD and is currently chairing the Finnish Village Movement Association, which is an umbrella organisation of Finnish rural and urban communities and LEADER LAGs. His passion is LEADER method dissemination to new geographic areas and policy fields – cause LEADER can really make a difference!

Mr. Mihail Dumitru, Deputy Director General. Directorate General Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission

Intervention: ‘EU rural policy and rural communities. The future post 2020’

Romanian nationality. Mihail Dumitru is agriculture economist specialised in agrifood economics and ruraldevelopment. Postgraduate studies in France and Greece at the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies. Ph D in economics.

After graduation of Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, Romania he worked three years in a large state owned farm in Prahova county, South Romania. After the farm experience moved into economic research carrying research studies in agricultural economics and rural economics at the Institute of Agricultural Economics Bucharest a constituent institute of Romanian Academy wherehe was head of a research department. In 1995 joined the Delegation of the European Commission in Bucharest where he followed the whole process of Romania’s accession to the EU being in charge with agriculture and other related sectors. In the last years prior to accession he headed the section of the Delegation in charge of Agriculture and Internal market. In 2006 he joined DG AGRI where he was in charge of negotiation of the first rural development programme (2007-2013) of Romania co-financed by EAFRD.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural development of Romania in 2010 he re-joined the European Commission in early 2011 where he took over a directorate in charge of Rural development programmes. In February 2014 he became Deputy Director General responsible for rural development and research. Since January 2017 he is DDG responsible for CAP direct support, rural development and sustainability.

Mr. Jaime Izquierdo Vallina, Comisioner for the Demographic Challenge of Asturias

Intervention: ‘Urban-rural relations’

Born in Infiestu (Asturias, España, 1958), Jaime Izquierdo Vallina took a degree in Geological Sciences at the University of Oviedo in 1981. Since 1983 he works as a public employee in environment, rural environment, applied ecology and territorial development.

He is an essayist, articulist, regular lecturer and author of several books, preferably essays on rural and territorial development issues: Manual for rural development agents (2001); Mr. Hoffmann’s return and other entire environmental accounts (2005); Marquises, political officials and pastors (2006); Asturias, ‘agropolitan’ area: The new relations between the countryside and the city in the post-industrial society (2008); My father’s house: a manual for the reinsertion of peasant territories in contemporary society (2012); The cultural conservation of nature (2013); The creative management of ‘pissed’ (2017) and The ‘agropolitan’ city. The cosmopolitan village (2019).

He has been distinguished with numerous prizes and recognitions, such as the European Prize for the Conservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage of the British Foundation for Conservation (Vienna, 1991); the Adolfo Posada Research Prize (Oviedo, 2001) or the César Manrique Foundation Prize for alternative environmental projects (Lanzarote, 2003).

He currently holds the position of Commissioner for the demographic challenge of the Government of Asturias.

Ms. Francesca Whitlock, Co-President of European Network for Community-led Initiatives on Climate Change and Sustainability – ECOLISE

Intervention: ‘Rural renaissance: the transformative potential of community-led responses to climate emergency’

Francesca Whitlock has spent the last five years living and worked communally in rural ecovillage and climate initiatives, from Navarra’s first rural community co-housing, ArterraBizimodu, to Sunseed Desert Technology in the deserts of Almería, via the Wilderland agricultural community in New Zealand. These experiences have shaped her belief in the transformative power of community action and the importance of centring rural areas in discourse and policy on climate change and sustainable development.

She is co-president of ECOLISE, the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability, communications manager for the Global Ecovillage Network Europe, and co-founder of Milpeus, a cooperative land bank in rural Cataluña. Before becoming inspired by the world of ecovillages and immersing herself in rural projects, she worked in London for several climate, sustainability and human rights NGOs including the UK Climate Coalition and Global Witness.

Ms. Camille Dressler, Chair of European Small Islands Federation – ESIN

Intervention: ‘Eigg – Journey of an Island Revival’

Camille Dressler is the chair of the European Small Islands Federation (ESIN) which brings together 11 small islands federations throughout Europe. Since 2012, she has been involved in island energy issues through the European transnational Smart Island Governance (SMILEGOV) project which has led to the Smart Islands Declaration in the European Parliament in 2016. With her island colleagues, she is involved in the implementation of the islands’ transition from fossil fuel through the Clean Energy EU islands programme. She lives on the isle of Eigg, a small Scottish off-grid island which has pioneered its own renewable energy grid and an award winning programme of fossil fuel reduction.

Mr. Gent Imeraj, Albanian Alps Alliance – AAA

Intervention: ‘With a handshake’

Gent Imeraj is currently a master student of Electronic Engineering and Digital Communication. He works as a teaching assistant and as a researcher at EPOKA University in Tirana, Albania.

At the age of 18, in February 2017, Gent was the youngest licensed Tour Guide from the Ministry of Tourism of Albania. His area of work was set to be Shkodra city and the Northern Alps.

After three years of successive trainings on Project Cycle Management, his role, from a participant, transformed to a project writer, preparing activity logistics, project reporting and lecturing.

“In my opinion, being complete is to possess the perspective of many eyes!” – Gent says.

“Le vent se lève! Ilfauttenter de vivre!” “The wind rises! We should try to live!”. Written by Paul Valéry. Rather than a threatening, it concludes a handshake! – Gent ends his autobiography.

Ms. Cora Pausch, Ecovillage Los Portales

Intervention: ‘Intentional communities as a path to sustainability, social connectedness and regeneration of rural areas’

Cora Pausch is a german Master of Science graduate. She studied International Forest Ecosystem Management (Bachelor of Science, 2009) and Global Change Management (Master of Science, 2013) at the University of Applied Sciences in Eberswalde, Germany. For her master thesis she started to investigate into the social and ecological aspects of sustainability by focusing on intentional communities and ecovillages as possible role models in times of climate change, urbanization, social isolation and alienation from nature.

Cora Pausch is 35 years old and in autumn 2018 she and her family moved from Germany to the Community Los Portales (Spain) which served as case study in her research. She is part of the ecological team that works in different fields like Permaculture, reforestation and water retention landscapes. 

Cora is qualified in the technique ZEGG Forum which is a ritualized form to create transparency and cohesion in larger groups. She is in the 2nd year of a training as coach in Processwork.

Ms. Santa Šmite, NGO Boat of Selonia

Intervention: ‘Collaborative river cleanup days in the countryside of Latvia’

Santa Šmite, from Association Boats of Selonia – Latvia. I am Latvian and like all Latvians my heart belongs to the Latvian countryside. I grew up in the Southeastern region of Latvia close to the Lithuanian border. After I graduated from secondary school, I moved to the capital city and lived there for 10 years. I studied at the University of Latvia and after graduating with a degree in geographical sciences worked as a meteorologist with the National Centre of Meteorology. My family also supported the lifestyle that country living can offer. The small town to which we returned has a river flowing through it and we saw this as an opportunity. We are passionate about canoeing and we wanted to develop this activity further.

Mr. Pablo García Lastra y Mr. Antonio García Méndez, Finca El Cabillón (Fundación Edes)

Finca El Cabillón is a project for the generation of employment opportunities in rural areas for people with intellectual disabilities promoted by the Edes Foundation, in Tapia de Casariego, Asturias.

It is a socio-environmental development project through agro-ecological production and socio-labour inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in rural areas in the north-west of Asturias.

Pablo García Lastra: Worker at the Finca El Cabillón Special Employment Centre as a gardener and horticulturist.






Antonio García Méndez: Workshop teacher at the Edes S. Coop Special Education School, president of the Edes Foundation and administrator of Finca El Cabillón.

Ms. Marina Guédon, Co-Coordinator of Forum Synergies – FS

Marina Guédon was raised on a French farm and now lives in Valencia on the coast of Spain. She shares the co-ordination of Forum Synergies’ activities with her colleague Simone Matouch. Forum Synergies is a non-profit association of citizens, organisations and active practitioners engaged in sustainable rural development. Itsupports people and initiatives who are engaging for a more sustainable, more democratic and creative rural life all over Europe, enabling the exchange of experiences, promoting synergies and supporting a constructive dialogue.

Marina Guédon kept her links to farming and rural life through her food sovereignty activism, her involvement in consumer groups in Valencia and her work on a small, collectively managed garden. Besides being part-time staff in Forum Synergies, she has worked on rural projects to attract newcomers to rural villages. She is now also training in group facilitation.

Mr. Gérard Peltre, President of Rurality Environment Development –

Gérard Peltre has a long experience in rural development, both as mayor of a village during 37 years and as project developer. As an expert consultant, he is advising local and regional communities in strategic development.

Since 1996, he is the President of the international association Rurality-Environment-Devloppement and impulses a networking dynamics around the recognition of the rural territories. Through the association, he is assuming various mandates at the European level (Consultative Group for Rural Development, Steering group of Rural Development, European Leader sub-group, European Steering group RURBAN).

For 20 years, he has also been president of the European Countryside Movement, a collaborative platform grouping nineteen European associations active in specific areas of rural development. He is recognized as expert in many French associations and is often invited as speaker at national and international conferences.