[ Contents ]
From strategy to action:
Evolution of the methods of project selection
Project selection evolves over time,
whether at the level of selection criteria,
procedures, the formalisation of calls for
proposals or methods of distribution, etc.
Each LAG draws on the lessons of the past and tries to adapt the criteria and methods of selection taking into account the problems encountered in its previous experiences, the appraisal of the results obtained, the evolution of the area or changes in the markets, etc.
Changes can be introduced during the programme's implementation, but it is particularly when a new programme is being negotiated, often for reasons of opportunity and availability of time, that the rules of the game are modified.
An important moment in this evolution was therefore the transition from LEADER I to LEADER II. This was the opportunity for the various levels involved (not only the LAGs but also the European, national and/or regional authorities) to draw on the lessons of LEADER I and consequently formalise new methods and procedures for calls for proposals and project selection.
The transition from LEADER I to LEADER II was expressed by a number of changes which, interacting with each other, changed the conditions of implementation of the initiative, particularly:
- the role of the Member States and/or Regions in the implementation of LEADER II;
- the evolution of the LAGs themselves.
4.1 The evolution of the institutional context
In the previous chapters, the LAGs have always been considered as the management bodies of the programmes. But the LEADER programme can be considered as a series of calls for projects and project selections between several institutional levels (European, national, regional, local).
In the context of LEADER I, the European Commission launched a call for proposals by inviting developers from rural areas eligible under Objectives 1 and 5b to present a "business plan" based on an analysis and development strategy, drawn up in association with the local actors.
Once their business plan was approved, the LAGs, for their part, launched calls for projects to potential final beneficiaries and selected them.
In the context of LEADER II, the European Commission's call for proposals became a call for proposals for regional or national programmes presented by regional or national authorities who, for their part, launched a call for proposals for the local LEADER programmes and held talks with the potential LAGs.
The comparative analysis of LEADER I and LEADER II highlights a number of common factors, enabling the essence and interest of the procedures for calls for proposals organised at successive levels to be better understood.
a) Similarities between LEADER I and LEADER II
LEADER I and LEADER II both comprise in particular:
- the principle of independence between levels - In the context of LEADER I, neither the European Commission nor the national authorities intervened directly in the invitation to tender and project selection, two procedures carried out by the LAGs. In the same way, under LEADER II, the European Commission does not intervene in talks between the regional bodies and the LAGs. For their part, the regional bodies generally do not directly intervene in the invitations to tender and project selection, which fall within the competence of the local level;
- the principle of global negotiation - This is the consequence of this first principle. Talks between the LAG and the European (LEADER I), regional and/or national authorities (LEADER II) are generally not carried out on a project by project basis but globally, on a whole programme at each level of the call for proposals;
- the principle of global funding - this follows on from the principle of global negotiation. Signing the contract, which confirms the agreement between both parties on the programme's content, implies global funding of the programme.
b) Changes between LEADER I and LEADER II
At European level, the most significant change is the introduction of the concept of "innovation" as a criterion of eligibility of the projects and funded actions, and, as already pointed out, the mandate given to the Member States and/or Regions to implement the programme.
At regional and/or national levels, various situations exist: in some cases, considerable leeway for autonomy has been given to the local groups. In other cases, the regional authorities have played an important role in terms of guidance for the content of the rural innovation programmes, which, in certain countries, have led to standard methods for calls for proposals and project selection by the LEADER groups. Also, in many cases, as was particularly the result of the contributions of the LEADER groups at the Symposium on 9,10 and 11 November 1997, the ways of managing the programme have become considerably cumbersome, greatly reducing the programme's flexibility and credibility.
Finding the right balance in terms of sharing responsibilities between the Member States / Regions (who have decisive roles to play in decentralised rural development policies) and the LAGs (who are able to adapt the interventions to the specific characteristics of their area) remains a key issue for the future.