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Regulations are the strongest form of Community legislation. They have general application, are binding in their entirety and are directly applicable in all Member States.

Rural development:
Rural development is closely linked to the common agricultural policy and measures to support employment. Accordingly, support measures in this sector have been traditionally based on different legal instruments pursuing different objectives.
In order to make it fully coherent, the reform of the common agricultural policy in 1999 under Agenda 2000, was accompanied by the strengthening of rural development measures, which were arranged in a single regulation.
This instrument establishes an integrated policy of sustainable rural development which ensures greater coherence between rural development and the prices and markets policy of the common agricultural policy, and promotes all aspects of rural development by encouraging all the local players to become involved.
Rural development has thus become the second pillar of the agricultural policy. With its links to agricultural activities and conversion, it is concerned in particular with:

  • modernisation of farms,
  • safety and quality of food products,
  • fair and stable incomes for farmers,
  • environmental challenges,
  • supplementary or alternative job-creating activities, in a bid to halt the drift from the country and to strengthen the economic and social fabric of rural areas,
  • improvement of living and working conditions, and promotion of equal opportunities.

The rural development measures designed to achieve these objectives have been divided into two categories:

  • flanking measures in the 1992 CAP reform: early retirement, agro-environmental measures, afforestation and the scheme for less-favoured areas;
  • measures to modernise and diversify farms: investment in farms, start-up schemes for young farmers, training, support for investments in processing and marketing plants, supplementary aid for forestry, promoting and restructuring agriculture.


(Support for Preaccession Measures for Agriculture and Rural Development) Its aim is to assist the candidate countries and prepare them for participation in the common agricultural policy and internal market on the basis of a wide range of adjustment measures relating to agricultural structures and rural development. These measures form part of the preaccession strategy conducted under Accession Partnerships formed between the Commission and each of the candidate countries. With the accession of the first group of candidate countries, the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund will take over, depending on the capacity of the individual beneficiary countries to use the Community grants effectively.

Services of general economic interest:
Services of general economic interest are commercial services of general economic utility, on which the public authorities therefore impose specific public-service obligations (Article 86 of the EC Treaty, formerly Article 90). Transport, energy and communications services are prime examples.

A new Article 16 has been written into the EC Treaty by the Treaty of Amsterdam, acknowledging the place occupied by services of general economic interest in the shared values of the Union and their role in promoting social and territorial cohesion. Article 16 also states that such services must operate on the basis of principles and conditions which enable them to fulfil their functions.

Single programming document (SPD):
It means a single document approuved by the European Commission and containing the same information to be found in a Community support framework and operational programme.

Structural Funds:
The EU's Structural Funds are administered by the Commission to finance Community structural aid. They comprise the Guidance Section of the EAGGF for agriculture, the Regional Fund for structural aid under the regional policy, the Social Fund for social policy measures, and the Financial Instrument for Fisheries (FIFG). Financial support from the Structural Funds mainly goes to the poorer regions to strengthen the Union's economic and social cohesion so that the challenges of the single market can be met right across the EU.

The subsidiarity principle is intended to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that constant checks are made as to whether action at Community level is justified in the light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level. Specifically, it is the principle whereby the Union does not take action (except in the areas which fall within its exclusive competence) unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. It is closely bound up with the principles of proportionality and necessity, which require that any action by the Union should not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaty.

The Edinburgh European Council of December 1992 defined the basic principles underlying subsidiarity and laid down guidelines for interpreting Article 5 (former Article 3b), which enshrines subsidiarity in the EU Treaty. Its conclusions were set out in a declaration that still serves as the cornerstone of the subsidiarity principle.

The Treaty of Amsterdam has taken up the overall approach that follows from this declaration in a Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality annexed to the EC Treaty. Two of the things this Protocol introduces are the systematic analysis of the impact of legislative proposals on the principle of subsidiarity and the use, where possible, of less binding Community measures.

Subsidies are aids granted to businesses by the public authorities for specific economic policy purposes in the form of direct financial support or tax concessions and the like. For example, subsidies may be granted to keep a business or even an entire sector going, to help companies adjust to changed circumstances, to boost productivity and growth in business and industry. Subsidies that distort competition are prohibited in the EU. Exceptions are permitted where the subsidies are aimed at social, structural and regional improvements.

Sustainable development:
The concept of sustainable development refers to a form of economic growth which satisfies society's needs in terms of well-being in the short, medium and - above all - long terms. It is founded on the assumption that development must meet today's needs without jeopardising the prospects of future generations. In practical terms, it means creating the conditions for long-term economic development with due respect for the environment. The Copenhagen world summit for sustainable development (March 1995) stressed the need to combat social exclusion and protect public health.
The Treaty of Amsterdam wrote an explicit reference to sustainable development into the recitals of the EU Treaty.


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