8th European Annual Conference “Peace and Agriculture” in Novo mesto, Slovenia from 27th to 29th October, 2022

Subject of event: "Ensuring food security in terms of social development of rural areas“

27th October, 2022

After the last face-to-face meeting of FriedensBrot’s network at the 6th European annual conference “Peace and Agriculture” in September of 2019 in Vilnius, Lithuania, followed by a pandemic-resultant substitute event in a small circle to present the international PeaceBread to the former project patron Ms Julia Klöckner, Federal German minister of food and agriculture on 8th October, 2020, the partners met in cyberspace on 7th September, 2021 for the 7th annual conference “Peace and Agriculture” organized by Romania in cooperation with the Federal Republic of Germany.

It was highly emotional and simply awesome that this year’s participants could finally meet again “live and in colour” with candle light and sparkling wine as a welcoming drink in the courtyard of the “Grad Otočec“ hotel. There was no end to putting the “glass aside” and embracing the next acquaintance from politics and civil society of the partner countries. Finally, the call by Darij Krajčič, secretary of state for the Slovenian ministry of agriculture, forestry and food, to the festive welcoming dinner brought the party to the hotel’s set table. Many discussions accompanied by excellent food and good regional wines prepared the guests for the conference.

28th October, 2022

At 08.30 a.m., the coach with the civil-society partners reached the premises of the “Grm Novo mesto – Centre for Biotechnics and Tourism”, one of the oldest and most renowned agricultural-touristic educational facilities in Slovenia.

Students gave the participants from the twelve partner countries of the network and their guests from Georgia, Ukraine, and the European Economic and Social Committee a hearty welcome at lovingly arranged exhibition tables showing the focus points of their studies and served local refreshments.

Immediately before the beginning of the meeting, the director of the “Grm Novo mesto – Centre for Biotechnics and Tourism“, Tone Hrovat, led the participants into the wine cellar located near the entrance to the education facility. He proudly told of a conspirative meeting held in the last years of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945-1992) with himself as a leading participant and pointed to a memorial plaque of 13th October, 2015, showing the following text:

“On the evening of 29th June of 1990, an important meeting of the Demos leaders was held in the wine cellar of the school, regarding – among other topics – the route for the Slovenian autonomy and the inclusion of all parliamentary parties in the independence project.”

Still under the impression of the director’s tale about the efforts involved in founding the independent Republic of Slovenia, the partners began their two-hour program at 9:00 a.m.

Some of the students moderated the meeting while a whole year listened to the speeches.

Dr. Gibfried Schenk

After the official welcome by director Hrovat there was a greeting by the general manager of FriedensBrot e.V., Dr. Gibfried Schenk who initially referred to the attack on 24 February, 2022, by the Russian Federation on the independant Ukraine.

“The world has changed”, he began, and supplemented: “Day by day, people are killed or maimed during these attacks. Who would have thought this possible when we last happily met in this round. Many members and followers of our network are supporting Ukraine, be it by sheltering refugees, collecting funds, holding conferences, or by other means of showing solidarity!”

On behalf of the German delegation, Dr. Schenk then set forth the following main items of the conference subject “Ensuring food security – Challenge for the social development of rural areas”:

1. Decisions at a national or overall European level need to be reflected in local rural politics.

2. The level of education in agriculture and related branches of economy is multifaceted and has the highest priority. Moreover, agricultural subjects should be imparted to all students at regular schools and academies – even in urban centers – as a “basis of existence”.

3. Organisations of the civil society, of the rural youth and rural women, are of central importance for the agricultural sector and rural areas and, therefore, should be promoted.

4. Public relations in agriculture is an absolute must. This concerns the social perception of matters concerning food security, the regional and seasonal output of agricultural produce, the relation between town and country, as well as agriculture and ambience, and many more.

More speakers of the civil societies of the represented countries went along with the subject on debate, for example Ms Nataliya Shukadarove, Executive Director of National grain producers Association of Bulgaria, Mr Varhur Kukk, President of the Estonian Rye Association, Mr Martins Cimermanis, Head of the Board of Latvian advisory and training center, Mr Algis Baravykas, Vice President of the Chamber of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania, Mr Petru Mirciov, President of the Association of Former Deportees in Baragan, Ms Miroslava Hrdlicova, Research Institute for Plant Production of the Czech Republic, Mr Marko Hrastelj, tutor at the hosting “Grm Novo mesto – Centre for Biotechnics and Tourism“ , and Mr Mihály Jancsȯ, Chairman of the Hungarian “FriedensBrot”

To the surprise of the moderating students, at the end of the conference kick-off, the following persons were once more called forward: Ms Nina Baloh of the Department for EU Cooperation and Service for International Relations of the Slovenian Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Director Tone Hrovat, and Tutor Marko Hrastelj. Together with Dr. Gibfried Schenk was signed a cooperation agreement between Association PeaceBread Berlin (FriedensBrot e.V. Berlin) and Grm Novo mesto – Centre for Biotechnics and Tourism as partners in the international PeaceBread network. Marko Hrastelj is awarded the honorary title “PeaceBread Ambassador”. Special thanks are due to Nina Baloh for the successful coordination of the complex conference program and the partaking delegations from the partner countries, as well as those from Georgia, Ukraine, and the European Economic and Social Committee (pic. S5, signed: Nina Baloh and Marko Hrastelj).

For lunch around noon, the civil-society delegates met in the extensively renovated historic guesthouse at the central town square, the culinary centre of the Grm Novo mesto. Here, an original wooden ceiling from the actual time of construction can be admired.

Following a previous guided tour of the town, the delegates of the agricultural ministries also returned for lunch at the guesthouse. Now commenced the joint part of the conference of political and civil-society representatives.

In bright sunshine, after lunch, all participants of the conference were taken to the historic hayrack of the education institute. Students played music and sang before a picturesque scenery. The Bishop of Novo mesto, Andrej Saje, blessed the PeaceBread baked from rye harvested in the partner countries.

As from 15:00 hours, the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture voiced their positions regarding the subject of the conference.

Words of greeting came from director Tore Hrovat, Ms Swantje Nilsson, head of the department for ‘EU affairs, international cooperation, fishery’ of the Federal Ministry of food and agriculture, conveyed words of greeting from the patron of the PeaceBread project, Federal Minister Cem Özdemir, the Hungarian representative Ms Piroska Kállay of the section of agriculture, rural development, and ambience of the European economy and social committee, Ms Martina Kopar, vice president of the Slovenian country youth association, and – last but not least- Ms Irena Šinko, Slovenian minister for agriculture, forestry, and food.

During a joint closing round of speeches and debates by the political and civil society representatives, not only the delegates of the traditional partner countries of the international PeaceBread network, e.g. Ms Evelin Oras, advisor to the Estonian minister of agriculture, Mr Aurel Simion, secretary of state of the Romanian ministry of agriculture, and Mr Petar Kirowski, director for plant production of the Bulgarian ministry of agriculture have a voice, but also Mr Andrij Taran, extraordinary and authorized ambassador of Ukraine in Slovenia, followed by a digital word of greetings from Mr Giorgi Merabishvili, advisor to the Georgian ministry of agriculture.

At the finish and peak of the event, Ms Irena Šinko, the Slovenian Minister of agriculture, forestry, and food, presented the blessed PeaceBread to the Slovakian minister of agriculture Mr Samuel Vlčan. (pics. H27 + S15). The Slovakian Republic will host the 9th conference “Peace and Agriculture” in the coming year, before in 2024, ten years after its founding in Berlin, the network will congregate again in the German capital.

Before dinner there was a brief and intensive discussion by the partners concerning the future arrangement of the international network “Peace and Agriculture”. The attending PeaceBread networkers confirmed the future focusing discussed in earlier meetings concerning the enhanced inclusion of agricultural training facilities and youth networks.

For the closing dinner of this grand event, the participants are taken to the top restaurant “Tri lučke“ (“Three Lights“) in Krško. It is late, the vineyards are hiding in the mist. Food and talks are all the better!

We thank the Slovenian hosts for arranging an important, interesting, and substantial 8th Annual European Conference “Peace and Agriculture” in Novo mesto. We look forward to meeting again in Bratislava.

(Photos: Anton Blöth, Christian Horn, Gibfried Schenk)

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