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Leader seminar "Challenges and methodology of transnational Cooperation"
2-6 April 1997, Dieulefit (Drôme), France
Bazois-Alentejo cooperation: Regional products and handicrafts of Europe
This is a case of transnational cooperation that in 1995 translated into the organisation of fairs and points of sale of regional products. Initially between Bazois (Burgundy, France) and Alentejo Centro (Portugal), this development training project has evolved towards the marketing of local products. The partnership has been enlarged to Northern Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Rumania and Austria, and the project has evolved towards exchanges between young people, women, farmers and the creation of a European network of sustainable local development.
The key elements
The main areas concerned - Bazois (France) and Alentejo Centro (Portugal) - have some similarities but also a lot of differences. Among the similarities are:
The differences between the two areas concern the geographical location (peripheral and Mediterranean nature of Alentejo, central position of Bazois), the weather conditions and socio-economic structures (in particular the large agricultural estates in Alentejo).
Point of departure
The point of departure was at the first Leader I meetings between the two main players: an elected official from Bazois and the head of the Alentejo group. They had in common a profound desire to prevent their rural areas from withdrawing into themselves. They wanted to analyse their own situation and compare it with the initiatives implemented in other Member States with the idea of opening up to the outside and establishing a local rural development network.
The invitation to Portugal to attend the socio-cultural and trade event "May in Bloom" was the triggering factor: it prompted the Bazois officials to reciprocate and organise an exchange visit at "Gourmand Days" in Saulieu.
From 1993 to 1995, several exchanges were organised between "Alentejo Centro" and the region of Bazois in France: invitation of the French to "May in Bloom" and participation of the Portuguese in "Gourmand Days".
Meetings were held to discuss the organisation in Bazois of a fair like "May in Bloom" where foreign participants are put up in private homes to favour cultural exchanges and tastings of local products are organised. There are also cultural events (music, theatre,...) from different countries.
At a Leader I seminar, the technician from Bazois met other participants who shared the same sensitivity, and the partnership expanded to Northern Ireland and Sicily. Poles were then put in contact with the partners and were integrated in what has gradually become a network, since the partnership has since then expanded to Austria, Scotland and Germany.
The "Local Products Fair" cooperation project gradually materialised. In September 1995, the first fair-exhibition of regional products and handicrafts of Europe took place in Châtillon in Bazois based on the Portuguese "May in Bloom" event. In 1996, the fair was held in Corbigny and proved to be not only a cultural and human success but also a commercial success: nearly 7000 people attended the fair in two days.
A point of sale of local products was set up near the "Maison du Bazois" which markets products from the areas of the different partners. It is a permanent relay of the Fair.
In parallel to this, a European foundation for local development called "Delos-Constellation" was created in the form of a European association in November 1996. Incorporating the same partners, its objective is to establish training programmes on sustainable local development in rural areas.
Plans for the future are: