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The European rural model
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In a word...
This 25th issue of LEADER Magazine focuses on the European rural model. Its pages lively demonstrate the many different purposes fulfilled by European rural areas. By "European rural areas" I am not simply talking about natural areas but also the places of various activities and functions.
I am referring to economic and social areas where agriculture, forestry, crafts and businesses of all sizes produce and sell and where services are provided locally and worldwide.
Europe's rural areas, the traditional domain of farming, have been evolving over the past several decades in a very uneven way. In some areas, we see the phenomena of population ageing and the flight of skilled labour while others areas are among the most dynamic regions of Europe in terms of economic growth and job creation. It would be rather simplistic to attribute the changes that have affected rural areas exclusively to the impact of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Nor should we overlook the changes that have occurred in technology, lifestyles, consumer expectations and the means of communication. Indeed similar trends have been observed in countries with agricultural policies different from our own.
Given that agricultural policy alone cannot solve such large-scale issues as unemployment, economic growth or the preservation of the environment, we must tackle them more directly through "tailor-made" rural development policies that complement the changes occurring in rural areas.
To this end, since the 1970s, the Community's rural development policy has been at work and it continues to grow in scope, making it the second pillar of the CAP.
In this context, the LEADER Initiative has been operating since 1991 to support the rural areas of the European Union by means of a development method which gives local players a say in the future of their area. Without going into an assessment of the programme, the LEADER approach can be credited with the fact that it has been emulated beyond the sphere of its beneficiaries and has even inspired national or regional policies, strengthened by the momentum generated by new partners and new operations.
Outside the European Union, the LEADER approach has generated interest among other movements engaged in rural development, as demonstrated by the articles on North America and Japan featured in this issue. Sharing experiences is at the heart of LEADER, and it seems to me that the Union's rural areas can also benefit from the lessons learned elsewhere. This will be made easier in the new round (2000-2006) by the European network.
Even if the LEADER movement has already proved its worth in those areas which have benefitted from its method or whose policies have been inspired by it, I am convinced that local development work in rural areas must continue and will lead to other initiatives just as significant as LEADER+.
source: LEADER Magazine nr.25 - Winter 2000/ 2001