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Special LEADER Symposium

Towards a new Initiative for rural development:
800 leaders give their views

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Six LEADERs debate with Commissioner Fischler

The autonomy of LAGs, the transfer
of LEADER principles to other programmes,
the financing of the future Community
Initiative were just some of the topics
covered at the plenary session on Monday
10 November by six heads of LEADER groups
who had the opportunity to put questions
to Commissioner Fischler on these different
points. Highlights from this meeting are
provided below.


On the autonomy of LAGs and the responsibilities of local partnerships (question from Carmel Fox, LAG Ballyhoura, Ireland):
Franz Fischler: "The partnership is in my view a fundamental part of LEADER and the future Community Initiative for rural development (...). The projects must be elaborated locally and not anywhere else (...). The principle of partnership must not only be maintained but also reinforced."

On the mechanisms to support diversification (question from Malaqu'as JimŽnez, LAG La Manchuela, Castille-La Mancha, Spain):
F.F.: "The implementation of the major principles of LEADER - partnership, LAG autonomy, involvement of local people - depends on a model of management that can be sustained by outside experiences but must be adapted to the politico-administrative context of each region (...). LEADER is a kind of laboratory which must also innovate in this field (...). This laboratory has to come up with new management procedures."

On the amount of financial support for LAGs (question from Sharon O'Hara, Developing Rural Enterprise, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom):
F.F.: "Agenda 2000 provides for a geographical concentration of the Structural Funds as well as certain thematic guidelines (the three Community Initiatives) (...). As far as LEADER is concerned, I believe that local programmes must be of a certain size in order to reach the critical mass necessary for their success (...). The experimental nature of LEADER must be maintained (...). We must be aware that LEADER anticipates principles that could be implemented in the context of broader development policies (...). To parody the expression 'small is beautiful', I would say that 'small is beautiful but it should also be powerful'."

On the transfer of LEADER principles to other Community programmes (question from Georges Amanatidis, LAG Kozani, Western Macedonia, Greece):
F.F.: "A model can never be entirely and automatically transferred (...). LEADER must be a 'supermarket of ideas, experiences, models, procedures' where the national and regional authorities should do their shopping often' (...). It is important that the administrative and government officials know what is happening in their own laboratory (...). The LEADER experiences must not be confined to the circle of people directly concerned but must also be known by the general public and be the subject of a broad debate (...). I am convinced that certain aspects (of the LEADER experience) could be applied to other areas of policy for the period 2000-2006".

On the possibility for the EAGGF-Guarantee Section to finance investments in all the sectors of the rural economy, outside the agricultural, agri-environmental and agri-food sectors (question from Pierre Desrozier, LAG Millevaches, Limousin, France):
F.F.: "The agricultural organisations are afraid that there are no longer enough financial resources for agriculture if the EAGGF-Guarantee Section is used to fund rural development (...) but I assure you that financing is not a problem (...). By keeping the method of calculating the agricultural guideline, it will be possible to provide ECU 1.9 to ECU 2 billion a year to finance new rural development measures during the period (...). Everyone agrees that agricultural policy must be accompanied by a rural development policy (...). We must therefore provide the means to carry out this policy."

On the future rural development policy and LEADER accessibility for all the rural areas in the Union (question from Helmut Pinggera, LAG Vinschgau/Val Venosta, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy): F.F.: "For reasons of simplification and an efficient allocation of resources, we would like in future for each region in the Union a single 'Programme for rural development' instead of today's multiple programmes for agriculture and rural development (...). This Programme should be elaborated by the regions themselves, with each having a single representative at the European level (...). The other question that arises is what areas will have access to LEADER? Only the areas of the new Objectives 1 and 2 or all the rural areas? At the risk of seeming impolite, I leave it to you to debate this issue during this symposium (...). Between now and tomorrow, we must weigh the pros and cons of any enlargement of LEADER."

source: LEADER Magazine nr.16 - Winter, 1997/98

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