Transnational cooperation between rural areas
Cooperation, an excellent tool to build
Europe and to promote rural development
[ President of the Rhône-Alpes Regional Council - France]
The LEADER II programme is very important for the Rhône-Alpes.
Although our region has the second most dynamic economy of all the
regions in France, it also has rural areas, mostly in the mountains
(Alps, Massif Central), which have been in decline for the past
several years and in some cases have reached the point of exclusion.
However, the policies traditionally implemented have not always been
very appropriate for the local realities of these areas.
That is why the LEADER II programme - because it develops a
comprehensive approach for these areas and includes actors, areas
and projects in an action that is as local as possible - is a tool
that provides a specific answer suited to these problems.
Complementary to existing programmes, LEADER helps bring together
the living strengths on the ground in an optimal manner by
identifying and taking advantage of the full potential of areas.
Supporting the local and innovative dynamics of rural development is
an approach that the Region of the Rhône-Alpes has adopted for its
own regional development action.
The Rhône-Alpes Regional Council has a lot of experience of
cooperation at the European and even international level, ranging
from the “Four Engines for Europe” institutional partnership with
the Regions of Catalonia (Spain), Lombardy (Italy) and Baden-
Württemberg (Germany) to decentralised cooperation with certain
countries of Africa, not to mention agreements with the Central and
East European countries. The Region therefore wanted the LEADER
groups to benefit from its expertise in transnational cooperation.
The LEADER II Technical Support Unit, the central instrument of this
support policy, is an experimental mechanism that was started up by
the Regional Prefect (chief government representative in charge of
regional administration) and that is run in partnership with the
Regional Council. The Unit’s operating and activity costs are
therefore equally divided between LEADER and the Regional Council to
the tune of EUR 1,200,000 over a period of three years.
The Support Unit’s mission was defined in close coordination with
the LEADER European Observatory in order to provide technical
assistance “on the ground” that was complementary to the technical
assistance developed in a more global fashion by the LEADER European
In concrete terms, the LEADER II Technical Support Unit first worked
to collectively mobilise the Rhône-Alpes groups: the late selection
of these groups meant that they were giving priority to their local
programme and they therefore had to be made aware of the importance
of transnational cooperation and helped to define their need for
cooperation. For this, the Unit, in partnership with the LEADER
European Observatory, organised in particular a seminar on “The
challenges and methodology of transnational cooperation” which was
held in Dieulefit from 2 to 5 April 1997.
But the Unit is primarily concerned with helping LEADER groups set
up their projects on a day-to-day and personalised basis: this
assistance has ranged from helping define local cooperation needs to
the implementation of Measure C, from partner searches to helping
apply for technical assistance (EUR 5,000 and EUR 20,000). For this,
the Unit has organised exploratory missions abroad for partner
searches, accompanies LAGs when they travel, provides interpreting
services and takes care of the translation of documents, or
coordinates working meetings with European partners. “Rhône-Alpes
Transnational Days” were organised in June 1998 to enable the LEADER
groups of Rhône-Alpes, virtually all involved in a cooperation
project, to progress faster and more effectively.
In parallel, the Region of Rhône-Alpes lends financial support to
the Rhône-Alpes LEADER groups for their cooperation projects. This
support has included funding for exploratory missions to find
partners abroad and a contribution to complement the EUR 20,000
granted by the European Commission. The Regional Council also funds
about 30% of each Measure C submitted by the local action groups.
The results of the Unit’s action have been very positive and we can
now contemplate the consolidation of these achievements. Today, the
Rhône-Alpes LEADER groups have succeeded in taking over the Unit’s
work and some twenty cooperation projects are under way, seven of
which have been approved for Measure C. Our intervention has
therefore achieved its objectives and we must now think about the
And as it is true that transnational cooperation takes a lot of time
and requires considerable means to coordinate, we would like the
future LEADER+ Initiative to provide for the necessary means of
assistance to implement cooperation projects begun under LEADER II.
LEADER is an excellent tool to build Europe, and cooperation is
therefore an essential element of this that the Regional Council
would like to continue to promote.
source: LEADER Magazine nr.21 - Autumn, 99