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Agricultural Policy and Rural Development

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Development of disadvantaged
rural areas of the European Union


Official title

"Community initiative for rural development (LEADER II: ‘Links between actions for the development of the rural economy')".


Legal references

  • Communication to the Member States laying down guidelines for global grants or integrated operational programmes for which Member States are invited to submit applications for assistance within the framework of a Community initiative for rural development (OJ C 180 of 1/7/1994).

  • Objectives:

    • to ensure that support for exemplary local initiatives involving local development continues from LEADER I;
    • to support operations that are innovative, suitable as a model and transferable, and that illustrate the new directions that rural development may take;
    • to step up exchanges of experiences and the transfer of know-how through a European rural development network;
    • to back transnational cooperation projects developed by the local bodies in rural areas which reflect heir solidarity.

  • Eligible areas LEADER II applies in the rural areas of regions eligible under Objectives 1 (lagging behind in development), 5b (fragile rural areas) and 6 (areas with very low population density). However, a maximum of 10% of the appropriations allocated for this Initiative to areas 5b may be assigned to non-eligible neighbouring areas.

  • Beneficiaries Principally, the "local action groups" as defined by LEADER I, i.e. a combination of public and private partners jointly devising a strategy and innovative measures for the development of a rural area on the scale of a local community (less than 100 000 inhabitants); Other rural collective bodies, public or private (local authorities, consular chambers, cooperations, associations, etc.), provided that their more specific activities relate to a plan for the rural development of a local area.


Eligible measures

LEADER II has 4 measures:

  • acquiring skills (measure A) - step prior to the development rural innovation programmes in areas where the practice of local development is new.
    This measure concerns actions such as analysis of the local area, motivating and training local people to participate actively in the development process, drawing up a strategy, and finding finance;

  • rural innovation programmes (measure B) - these model and transferable programmes are promoted by local action groups or, in some cases, by other collective bodies. They are extremely innovative in terms of method and content and in relation to the policies conducted in the same area, particularly in the context of operational programmes.
    Rural innovation programmes are multiannual.
    They can be comprised of a set of very diversified measures in terms of:

    • technical support for rural development,
    • vocational training,
    • support for rural tourism,
    • support for small businesses,
    • local exploitation and marketing of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products,
    • preservation and improvement of the environment and living conditions

  • transnational cooperation (measure C): the objective is to facilitate the devising and development of joint projects by groups and other local bodies from at least two Member States;

  • European network for rural development (measure D): the different components of LEADER II make up a European network for rural development, constituting for all the public and private bodies concerned a permanent tool for the exchange of achievements, experience and know-how. This network is coordinated by the LEADER European Observatory through various tools and services (databases, publications, electronic network, seminars, symposiums,...).
    The Observatory's primary task is to analyse and make known the innovations arising out of LEADER II. The Observatory also has the task of providing technical assistance for transnational cooperation and may, in this capacity, pay for part of the cost related to the devising of projects (the subsequent phase of development may perhaps be financed through measure C of the Initiative).


Financial participation of the European Union

The Community's participation has been set at 1 500 million ECU of which 900 million ECU are for the regions of Objective 1. LEADER II applies for the duration of the new period of reform of the Structural Funds from 1994 to 1999.



The national and/or regional authorities are responsible for the management of this programme. These institutions have submitted to the Commission a national or regional LEADER programme concerning measures A, B and C of the Initiative. Most of these programmes were approved in the course of 1995. The local groups and/or the other collective bodies submit their proposals to these institutions which are responsible for the implementation of LEADER and the selection of local projects.


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: 01/98

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