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The Heritage as a Resource


In a word...
Yves Champetier, Director, LEADER European Observatory


The LEADER approach is part of a long-term process, since each area has to build its future using its own specific resources. The recent presentation by the Commission of its proposals for Europe's future policy on rural development and the new Community Initiative show, as Commissioner Fischler announced at the LEADER Symposium in November 1997, that European support in the forthcoming years will not be lacking.

The theme of "heritage" dealt with in this issue is precisely at the heart of this long-term course of action: be it natural or cultural, scenic or architectural, historic or artistic, the rich heritage of Europe's rural areas is a resource to be taken advantage of, to be put to work for a new development. For some areas, heritage is even sometimes "the" resource on which will be based the redevelopment strategy and the will to forge a new local identity: this is for example the case of the "Lands that Sing" in Alentejo Centro (Portugal), the "Land of Giono" in southern France, the "Don Quijote" LAG in Castille-La Mancha (Spain), to mention just a few.

A number of LEADER groups have planned heritage actions in their rural innovation programme: in some cases, these are villages that are being renovated to revive their architectural beauty and to improve local services; in other instances, these are derelict buildings that are being restored to provide accommodation for a new type of tourist in search of authenticity or to house innovative activities; and there are even places where traditional festivals are being brought back or new ones are being invented to offer more entertainment, to strengthen the ties between the local people but also to give expression to a renewed identity that looks to the future.

The article by Michael Dower, the success stories of three LEADER officials in Spain, France and Greece, the reports from Friesland (Netherlands) and Barbagia-Baronie in Sardinia show how rural areas in difficulty are seeking - and often succeeding - to take advantage of their past to build their future. They all point to the indispensable need as well to link heritage to the local dynamic so that the actions undertaken in this area are always in the end carried out by and for the local people and generate new jobs and new activities. Heritage is also the theme of myriad cooperation projects between areas: thus, four LEADER groups are joining forces to develop a road to Santiago de Compostela; two local action groups from Ireland and Scotland whose areas have "twin" abbeys have decided to work together; several LAGs from the Mediterranean basin are planning to cooperate to link together sites from the "Great Greece" of antiquity; etc.

Lastly, the development of heritage can be a reason for solidarity between areas. It is this solidarity that the LEADER groups of Umbria and the Marche in Italy are asking us to show: in autumn 1997 these two regions were hit by a series of earthquakes that, in addition to plunging the local people into a state of confusion and uncertainty, seriously damaged their cultural heritage and destroyed a certain number of facilities built with the help of LEADER. With the support of Dario Fo, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the groups of these disaster-stricken areas are calling on all the members of the LEADER network to participate in a solidarity campaign in each of the areas involved in the Initiative.

Solidarity, cooperation, strengthened or renewed identity, new jobs, new activities, long-term action, the theme of heritage is clearly at the heart of the renewal of Europe's rural areas.


source: LEADER Magazine No.17 - Spring, 1998

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