Special LEADER Symposium
Towards a new Initiative
for rural development:
800 leaders give their views
Moving into high gear
A unique opportunity to meet some 800 LEADER
beneficiaries in person, the symposium was a
genuine launching pad for the transnational
cooperation dimension of the Initiative.
Transnational cooperation was one of the three major objectives of the symposium. Nothing could be more logical, since the implementation of LEADER is generally well under way, and a number of beneficiaries have reached the stage where it can be useful to turn to the transnational level to solve certain particular problems or better take advantage of certain specific local resources. As Commissioner Fischler indicated in his opening speech: "often enough, this kind of cooperation is needed for a project to reach the right critical mass. It is not an added luxury but a key factor in the success of LEADER projects."
A special - and very convivial - area was set up to help groups define the cooperation needs of their area, to find suitable partners and to devise the actions to be carried out.
Set up as a "one-stop shop" for transnational cooperation, the "Cooperation Area" offered some of the following services:
- individual meetings in seven languages with resource persons who helped define the cooperation needs of the individual concerned;
- identification of possible partners through different databases, including the "Partner" base containing all the requests received by the LEADER European Observatory prior to the symposium.
Thirty three "discussion tables" bringing together heads of LEADER groups interested in specific cooperation themes were also organised in such fields as crafts, tourism with horse-riding or cooking, the utilisation of rivers or the promotion of chestnuts. In total, over 140 people took part in these discussion tables.
A few specifics
The morning of 11 November was entirely devoted to transnational cooperation. This plenary session was an opportunity to provide quite a few specifics to help ensure that the cooperation projects run as smoothly as possible. Laurent Van Depoele of DG VI thus clarified the way in which LEADER's Measure C was going to be implemented and the possible fields of cooperation: exchanges of good practice, transfer of know-how and elaboration of joint projects, adding that "the services of the European Commission are prepared to propose a standard document that can be used in all Member States to present the transnational cooperation action."
Additional details were also given regarding the technical assistance provided by the LEADER European Observatory, and the new methodological guide"Transnational cooperation between rural areas" was commented and distributed to all those who attended the symposium.
The six case studies presented during this plenary session showed the great
variety of cooperation projects that could be carried out under LEADER:
- Seamus O'Reilly from the University of Cork in Ireland presented the
"European Commercialisation Antennas" where five LEADER groups together
are trying to market regional products in several major European cities.
- Gilberte Brémont from the LAG of Préalpes Drômoises (Rhône-Alpes, France)
presented the strategy of "Via Mediterranea", a network of 10 Mediterranean
areas which together have sought to design and promote rural tourism products.
- David Haworth (LAG Argyll & the Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom) presented
"The Saint's Trail" project: his group and an Irish LAG are working to set
up a tourist itinerary based on the historic links existing between the two
areas, notably two abbeys founded by Saint Colomba.
- Antonio João Nunes-Realinho (LAG Raia Centro-Sul, Portugal) described the
"A Raia / La Raia" network: five neighbouring Spanish and Portuguese development
associations are implementing a series of joint cross-border actions.
- Alva Carrasco Lera (LAG Monta–a Palentina, Castille-Leon, Spain) described the
course of action of three LEADER groups from Spain, Germany and France which are
seeking to introduce in their respective areas the "cyclorail", a device that
enables bicycles to ride on abandoned or underutilised railways.
- Christian Ries of the LAG Clervaux-Vianden (Luxembourg) wrapped up this series
of concrete examples with the presentation of the "Tool IT" project: three
LEADER groups from Sweden, Scotland and Luxembourg want to develop a joint
offer of teleworking services.
Over 300 people took advantage of the Cooperation Area. There were 183 individual meetings, and 144 people participated in one thematic discussion table or another. All of this made it possible to formalise 210 requests for cooperation, of which 125 were processed on the spot by the LEADER European Observatory.
Over half of these requests concern the transfer of know-how between LEADER beneficiaries, 47 the joint elaboration of products, 32 the joint implementation of common heritage. Nine involve the pooling of human and/or material resources and 22 concern different types of projects.
Among the most frequent projects are the joint marketing of agri-food products (e.g. creation of common labels), the utilisation of waste from forestry, tourism on waterways, angling, the recycling of old railways, Medieval heritage, telematics and the development of multimedia tools. It is worth noting that Spain, Italy and France are the three countries that presented the largest number of projects.
Judging from the success of the "Cooperation Area", the Brussels symposium is probably going to enable this essential dimension of LEADER (a total of over ECU 100 million are earmarked for this under measure C) to move into high gear.
source: LEADER Magazine nr.16 - Winter, 1997/98