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Agricultural Policy and Rural Development

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The Community Initiative for rural development


Official title

Community Initiative for rural development (LEADER+: “Links between Actions for the Development of the Rural Economy”).


Legal references

  • Commission notice to the Member States laying down guidelines for the Community Initiative for rural development (LEADER+), OJ C 139, 18.5.2000.

  • Article 20(1)(c) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1260/ 1999 of 21 June 1999 Laying Down General Provisions on the Structural Funds, OJ L 161, 26.6.1999, p.1.

  • Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/1999 on support for rural development from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF), OJ L 160, 26.6.1999, p. 80.



Integrated rural development schemes and pilot projects designed to be implemented by active partnerships at local level are now covered by the LEADER+ Initiative.



The beneficiaries will be “Local Action Groups” (LAGs) that will draw up development strategies for their local area and be responsible for their implementation.

These “Local Action Groups” must consist of a balanced and representative selection of partners drawn from the different socio- economic sectors in the territory concerned. At the decision-making level, not more than 50% of a local partnership may be made up of government officials and elected office-holders.

The “Local Action Groups’” will operate in rural territories of a small size which form a homogeneous unit in physical (geographical), economic and social terms. The population must as a general rule be not more than 100 000 in the most densely populated areas (around 120 inhabitants/km2) and in general not less than about 10 000. However, in areas with a high or low population density, such as, for example, certain areas of northern Europe, exceptions to these criteria may be accepted.


Eligible measures

LEADER+ is structured around three actions:

Action 1: Support for integrated territorial rural development strategies of a pilot nature based on the bottom-up approach and horizontal partnerships.

    Support will be given to rural areas which show a willingness and ability to devise and implement an integrated and sustainable pilot development strategy, supported by the presentation of a development plan, based on a representative partnership and structured around a strong theme typical of the identity and/or resources and/or specific know-how of the territory concerned.

    The priority themes at European level are:

    • the use of new know-how and new technologies to make the products and services of rural areas more competitive;

    • improving the quality of life in rural areas;

    • adding value to local products, in particular by facilitating access to markets for small production units via collective actions;

    • making the best use of natural and cultural resources, including enhancing the value of sites of Community interest selected under NATURA 2000.

    However, the list of priority themes and target groups may be extended by the Member States to take account of their own specific situations.

    As a priority, the Commission would like support to be given to strategies, which seek to enhance the job opportunities and/or activities for women and young people.

    The development strategy must be economically viable and sustainable and be of a pilot nature. The experimentation which started under LEADER I and II should be deepened under LEADER+ with original and ambitious approaches to rural development which are transferable and complement the interventions made under the “mainstream” programmes in the area concerned.

    By way of illustration, the “pilot” concept could be assessed in terms of:

    • the emergence of new products and services which incorporate the distinctiveness of the local area;

    • new methods permitting the combination of the area’s human, natural and/or financial resources, resulting in better use of indigenous potential;

    • the combination of and links between economic sectors which are traditionally separate;

    • original forms of organisation and involvement of the local population in the decision-making process and in implementing the project.

Action 2: Support for inter-territorial and transnational cooperation.

    LEADER+ will support cooperation actions within one Member State (inter-territorial cooperation), between several Member States (transnational cooperation) and/or third countries. Cooperation must demonstrate genuine added value for the territories and may have the two following, often complementary, aims:

    • achieving the critical mass necessary for a joint project to be viable;
    • encouraging complementary actions.

    The cooperation actions may not only consist of exchanges of experience but must include the implementation of a joint project, if possible supported by a common structure.

    Funding under this action will be granted for the joint project and for upstream expenditure on technical assistance for cooperation.

    This action applies only to rural territories selected under Action 1 of the Initiative. It will be implemented under the responsibility of an LAG coordinator.

    The following specific provisions will apply:

    • Inter-territorial cooperation
      Only operations concerning territories selected under LEADER+ will be eligible for Community co-financing. However, expenditure on animation will be eligible in all the areas concerned.

    • Transnational cooperation
      Transnational cooperation will apply to LAGs belonging to at least two Member States. However, where a territory selected under LEADER+ enters into a cooperation project under the terms of this action with an area outside the European Union organised according to the LEADER approach, associated expenditure relating to the LEADER+ area will be eligible.

Action 3: The networking of all rural areas in the European Union

The networking of all rural areas, whether or not beneficiaries under the Initiative, and of all organisations and administrations involved in territorial development, such as for example the Rural Carrefours, will receive support with a view not only to the exchange and transfer of experiences but also to:

  • stimulating and achieving cooperation between territories, and
  • providing information and drawing lessons concerning territorial rural development.

Active participation in the network will be mandatory for LEADER+ beneficiaries.

Each of the Member States will propose the steps required to put in place the necessary structure for organising a national LEADER network. The Commission recommends that the network organisation unit be responsible for:

  • collecting, analysing and disseminating information at national level on good practice which is transferable;
  • organising the network;
  • organising exchanges of experiences and know-how, in particular for less-advanced territories, which could benefit from the knowledge gained by more experienced LAGs;
  • providing technical assistance for local and transnational cooperation.

An ‘Observatory of Rural Areas’ led by the Commission will be responsible for organising the network at European level.



On the basis of the indicative financial allocations by Member State, as decided by the Commission, the Member States will submit their proposals for programmes to the Commission.

The programmes will be drawn up by the competent authorities designated by the Member State at the geographical level deemed to be the most appropriate, based on considerations such as their administrative structure and the planned implementation and management systems.

The Member States may opt for operational programmes or global grants to implement their programmes.

The Member State will inform the Commission of the number of LAGs it intends to select when submitting the proposal. The selection may be national or regional.

More than one call for proposals may be organised by the Member State, especially where LEADER+ is open to new areas. In all cases, territories applying under Action 1 must be selected no later than two years after the selection criteria have been approved. The provisions proposed must ensure that the LAGs have regular and progressive access to the forms of cooperation.

Monitoring will be undertaken at the level of:

  • the local action groups,
  • the national/regional programmes,
  • the European level.

Also a Monitoring Committee will be established for each programme under the Initiative, and a Steering Committee chaired by the Commission and comprising of the administrators and the national and regional networks will be set up. It will meet at least once a year to discuss the implementation of the Initiative and will constitute the monitoring body for Action 2 at the Community level.

The Commission will approve the programmes within no more than five months of receipt of the application for assistance and will decide on the contribution from the EAGGF Guidance Section. When the Member State selects the operational programme as the form of assistance, three months after approval of the programme, a programme complement must be submitted to the Commission for information. The Commission approves of the use of global grants in accordance with Articles 9 (I) and 27 of the General Regulation.


Financial participation of the EU

The LEADER+ Initiative will be jointly financed by the Member States and the Community.

The total contribution of the EAGGF Guidance Section for the period 2000-06 will be EUR 2020 million at 1999 prices. The EAGGF Guidance Section contribution to each programme shall be indexed at 2 % a year up to 2003 and shall be decided at 2003 prices for the years 2004 to 2006. By 31 December 2003, the Commission shall determine the rate of indexation applicable for 2004 to 2006.

In particular, the EAGGF Guidance Section contribution will be a maximum of 75% of the total eligible cost in the regions covered by Objective 1 and a maximum of 50% in other areas.

The indicative allocation of the commitment appropriations available among the Member States are the following, in millions of euros in 1999 prices: Belgium 15, Denmark 16, Germany 247, Greece 172, Spain 467, France 252, Ireland 45, Italy 267, Luxembourg 2, the Netherlands 78, Austria 71, Portugal 152, Finland 52, Sweden 38 and the United Kingdom 106.


Additional sources of information

  • In each Member State:
    national and/or regional authorities in charge of rural development.

  • At the Community level
    European Commission
    Directorate-General for Agriculture - Directorate F
    Unit F3 “Coordination within rural development”
    Rue de la Loi, 200
    Office L 130 6/197
    B-1049 Brussels
    F: +32 2 296 59 92
    E-mail :


date of publication: 05/2000

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