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The added value of LEADER
In a word...
On 14 April 2000, the Commission approved the guidelines for LEADER+, the new Community Initiative for rural development. This means that within a few months the LEADER+ mechanism will be operational and a new generation of local action groups will embark on the implementation of pilot development projects throughout rural Europe.
At the moment, most of the government agencies of the Member States in charge of LEADER+ are working on the proposals for programmes that they will soon be submitting to the Commission. After a maximum period of examination of five months, the Commission will approve these plans and the selection of the local action groups may begin.
I am delighted to be assisting with this new phase of LEADER, an Initiative to which I have attached tremendous importance since it began and from which I am expecting a lot in the context of the new European policy on rural development.
This twenty third issue of LEADER Magazine is rightly devoted to “the added value of LEADER”. On the eve of the implementation of LEADER+, I would like to recall that the Initiative’s added value is first and foremost the result of what is called the “LEADER method”. In this respect, a key word to define LEADER is truly “liaison”, the first word of the acronym “L.E.A.D.E.R.” in French, meaning “link”.
LEADER is indeed the “liaison” between the actors of an area that helps them elaborate and implement together a strategy. This link is formalised in a partnership, the local action group. LEADER is also the link between the development actions of an area. This link brings together and integrates sectors, heightening the effects of the development strategies. Finally, LEADER creates links between areas, thanks to the strength of its network and the cooperation established between local action groups, on the one hand, and the other components of the rural world, on the other.
The "+" sign now attached to LEADER underlines more than ever before the Initiative’s demonstrative value. The purpose of LEADER is the emergence and testing of original development operations that might influence rural policies and serve as an example for all the Union’s rural areas.
I am convinced that we must clearly express the cherished ambition that we have for LEADER+ and underscore the high quality of the strategies that we are expecting from it. It is encouraging to see that LEADER I and II have left their mark on the rural policies of several Member States and that the “LEADER method” has been included in a number of national and/or regional programmes. This must lead us to be particularly demanding of the new Initiative so that it clearly stands apart from the content of the so-called “conventional” programmes. The introduction of more rigorous selection criteria is a move in that direction.
Because LEADER I and LEADER II have already largely demonstrated the creative potential of rural areas, LEADER+ represents a challenge to do even better, an extra “plus” for the renewal of rural Europe.
source: LEADER Magazine nr.23 - Summer 2000