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Challenges for rural areas

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key word: methodology and development
source: LEADER Magazine n12
date of publication: 10/96

In a word...

Yves Champetier

Director, LEADER European Observatory

This issue of LEADER Magazine is being distributed at the Conference in Cork, Ireland on 7, 8 and 9 November 1996, which is devoted to the development prospects of rural Europe. Mr Franz Fischler, Member of the European Commission responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development, presents below the objectives of this event and the Commission's expectations.

The local approach of rural development and the exchange of experiences and the transfer of know-how are two of the major topics that will be covered.

Joseph Mannion of the University of Dublin examines on these pages the stakes and place of this local approach within development policies.

Through accounts and reports from different Member States of the European Union, we also wanted to give local officials the opportunity to speak so that they could share some of the challenges of development facing their area and their vision of the future.

For the past four years now, LEADER Magazine has aimed to reflect the many initiatives that are conducted in all the countries of the Union. Intended for a relatively wide public, this publication is part of an entire networking mechanism which the Commission wanted to set up through the creation of the LEADER Observatory in order to promote exchanges between everyone who feels concerned about the future of rural Europe.

These exchanges should provide answers to several of the needs of rural areas:

  • information - rural players are able to discover experiences, achievements implemented in other contexts, to take advantage of projects successfully completed by others and also, through this knowledge, to be in a better position to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses in a European context;
  • reinforcement of know-how - in many respects, rural development requires new professional skills. This know-how has to be maintained, reinforced, improved to take into account the new challenges that rural society must meet. Sharing experiences, participating in networks are one of the ways to achieve this necessary reinforcement of skills. The dissemination of integrated local development methods must be facilitated through mutual learning on the basis of individual experiences;
  • transfer of innovations - innovation is a complex process that more often than not has a collective, multifunctional and multisectoral dimension. In this sense, an innovation can rarely be transferred in its entirety. On the other hand, good understanding of the steps taken, the methods used by each one constitutes a powerful facilitator to seek solutions adapted to the problems facing each one;
  • cooperation between rural areas - it is very often indispensable to achieve the critical mass that will enable tackling a new market, to pool complementary resources, to valorize collectively products having similar features, to carry out projects that are only viable at a large regional scale. Through this vast movement of exchanges, the network facilitates the identification of potential partners and the implementation of relevant cooperation projects.

From a more general point of view, the purpose of this networking is to develop solidarity between rural areas, solidarity that enables them to face the difficulties that they encounter but especially to take full advantage of the opportunities that are opening up today for rural Europe.

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