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Transnational cooperation between rural areas

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In a word...

Franz Fischler,
Member of the European Commission in charge of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Rural Development

 

I have particular pleasure in introducing this edition of LEADER Magazine following my confirmation as a Member of the new Commission presided by Mr Prodi. I am delighted to have the opportunity to continue to work with you in promoting new approaches to integrated and sustainable development of Europe's rural areas. As you know, I place a high value on the contribution of LEADER in this important task.

On 13 October 1999 the European Commission approved the draft guidelines for LEADER+
( http://ec.europa.eu/dg06/rur/europa/leaderplus/index_en.htm), together with indicative financial allocations for each Member State. The total Community contribution for LEADER+ in the period 2000-2006 will be EUR 2020 million, financed entirely from the EAGGF-Guidance Fund. LEADER+ will be an essential part of the Community’s new rural development policy established under Agenda 2000.

In drawing up the guidelines, the Commission has examined carefully the numerous submissions received from interested organisations. We have also taken good note of the key messages, which emerged, from the LEADER symposium held in November 1997 to help prepare the new Initiative. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the key features of LEADER+ as proposed in the Commission’s draft guidelines.

LEADER+ will continue to support local-scale, bottom-up approaches to integrated rural development with a strong emphasis on active participation of the local population, on co-operation and networking.

It will not however be a simple repeat of LEADER II. I believe that some of the actions and approaches developed under LEADER to-date are now ready to pass into the mainstream programmes. As its name implies, LEADER+ will seek to go further. It will aim to encourage more ambitious, high quality and original “pilot” strategies for integrated rural development. Key new features in the Commission’s proposals for LEADER+ include:

  • all rural areas within the EU will in principle be eligible under LEADER+;

  • selection criteria for Local Action Groups should however be made more rigorous in order to ensure concentration of funds and emphasis on “pilot” integrated strategies;

  • the introduction of priority themes of particular interest at European level around which Local Action Groups should focus their development strategies;

  • an increased emphasis on co-operation between rural areas - including the possibility to support joint rural development projects between LEADER groups and similar structures within the same Member State;

  • the establishment of a “European Observatory for Rural Areas”, to strengthen networking between all those involved in rural development.

The Commission is also keen to learn from some of the difficulties experienced with the practical implementation of LEADER II, which I know have at times caused frustration for those working on ground level.

We will seek to work with Member States to identify improved procedures. For example, where necessary, to ensure a more rapid selection of LAGs than was the case under LEADER II, or to ensure that Community funds reach Local Action Groups more rapidly.

The Commission’s draft guidelines for LEADER+ will now be discussed with the Member States. They have also been sent to the European Parliament, Committee of the Regions and Economic and Social Committee for information. Once these procedures have been completed the guidelines will return to the Commission, hopefully before the end of the year, for final adoption and publication in the Official Journal. Member States will then have six months to present their draft programmes to the Commission.

I count on your support to ensure that both the conclusion of LEADER II and launch of LEADER+ are successful.

 

source: LEADER Magazine nr.21 - Autumn, 99


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