At the occasion of the start of the French Presidency of our network, we interviewed Thibaut Guignard, President of LEADER France and mayor of Ploeuc-L’Hermitage (Brittany, 4 103 inhabitants), freshly elected president.
You’ve just taken the presidency of the ELARD network through your presidency of LEADER France. What were your motivations to chair the European network?
Although the LEADER approach originated in France in 1991, and LEADER France was one of ELARD’s founding members, our federation has never chaired it.
Our federation has now been developing for a couple decades and is now recognised both at French and European level as preferential contact on LEADER and more generally European funds for rural territories. Chairing ELARD follows the natural course of the actions we have been carrying throughout the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union (European Congress of LAGs in Ploeuc-L’Hermitage, mobilisation of European networks on the 8th report on economic, social and territorial cohesion to feed in the European Court of Auditors’ report). In addition, 2023-2024 is key moment for LEADER and rural territories. With the start of the new European programming and the 2024 European elections, many important issues are coming up and we wanted to be an active player in this strategic period.
What are your plans for ELARD?
The candidacy we proposed in 2022 was based on a real ambition for ELARD. We did not want to chair for the sake of chairing: we want ELARD to become active in policy making and develop new projects. Our ambition is not limited to this however: we want to build a real network of Local Action Groups in Europe. This is why we are making every effort to organise a LEADER European Congress in Brussels at the end of 2023, in partnership with the European Committee of the Regions. A European event dedicated solely to the Leader programme and community-led local development during which Local Action Groups from all over the European Union could meet, exchange and cooperate. We want a network that “talks” to LAGs and that brings real added value, especially in terms of visibility.
What resources will be dedicated to the presidency of ELARD?
To chair and have the means of our ambitions, we asked for the financial support of French ministries. We will also be looking for official and recurring sources of funding. At the same time, the sound financial management of LEADER France for several years will allow us to provide self-financing if necessary.
We want to apply to ELARD the same recipe as for Leader France and work to develop new projects that will allow us to have complementary recipes. The arrival of Marie Permingeat, who will coordinate ELARD, within our team, should allow us to strengthen ELARD and continue in parallel our actions as a national federation.