History of the Programme
The context for starting the PREPARE programme in 1999 was the prospect of the enlargement of the European Union to embrace 10 countries in Central and Eastern Europe. These countries hade been obliged to address major issues related to agriculture and rural development. This was recognised by the EU in the aid programmes under Agenda 2000. One of these programmes, SAPARD, was aimed directly at agriculture and rural development.
In 1998, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament asked the University of Kassel to do a study of sustainable rural development in the pre-accession countries. Their report made recommendations on rural development procedures; emphasised the need to encourage a true bottom-up approach; and proposed that people involved in rural development be brought together in a workshop.
A travelling workshop on ‘Creating Partnership for Pre-Accession’ was therefore organised in June 1999 in Estonia and Sweden. Its aim was to promote an active partnership and exchange of experience, between people involved in rural development in the pre-accession countries. It was initiated by the group of NGOs which subsequently launched the PREPARE programme; and was funded by public bodies in Sweden and Estonia, the Open Society Institute, the European Parliament and the European Commission. Participants came from government agencies and NGOs in the 10 pre-accession countries. The workshop enabled them to see how rural development can be pursued through effective partnerships, and how local people can be actively involved in the development process.
A report of the travelling workshop was published by the European Parliament in December 1999. The report urged the governments of the pre-accession countries to pursue full partnership with local populations, NGOs and other actors in their rural development programmes; and to so shape those programmes as to encourage the strengthening of civil society
The PREPARE programme was built directly on the experience of the travelling workshop. It was shaped through intensive discussion with officials and NGOs in the then pre-accession countries and in the European Commission. The shape of the programme has evolved in response to the changes in the membership and the policies of the European Union, and the evolution of civil society in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.