Report on the Long-Term Vision: A first recognition for LEADER-CLLD and a future to build with rural areas

Report on the Long-Term Vision: A first recognition for LEADER-CLLD and a future to build with rural areas

On March 27th, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) has published a report, entitled “The long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas: key achievements and ways forward”, which outlines the progress made so far under the EU’s long-term rural vision, but also highlights the outcomes delivered since 2021 and shares ideas for future work. This report marks a step forward in the implementation of the long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas and the recognition of rural territories in European policies.

After presenting the nine actions completed so far, among the thirty planned across a range of EU policy areas to support stronger, more connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas and communities, the report looks at the future and presents ideas and questions for reflection on how EU polices and supports could be enhanced in the future.

It is without appeal that the European Commission itself recalls not only the essential role played by LEADER-CLLD to empower rural communities and respond to the multiple rural needs, but also highlights its inadequate financial allocations. Indeed, the report stresses that “amounts assigned to LEADER (EUR 7.7 bn total financial allocation for 2023-2027) did not increase compared to the previous period. With a rural population coverage increased from 61 to 65% and decreased contributions from other interventions, LEADER-CLLD is expected to do more with less”.

“At ELARD, we believe that LEADER-CLLD is way more than just a financing tool, but a true rural development program with its own fundamentals. LEADER has already proved its added-value and effectiveness. The special report of DG AGRI “Evaluation support study of the costs and benefits of the implementation of LEADER-CLLD” even demonstrated it. LEADER-CLLD is already doing a lot and can do more with adequate resources and conditions. We have been continuously asking for a reasonable reliable financial resource for rural development by local actors, and it is crucial that it is taken into account for the post-2027 programming period” says Thibaut Guignard, President of ELARD.

In the report, the European Commission also highlights that strong and sustainable engagement and commitment at Member States, regional and local level is essential in view of the goals of the rural vision by 2040. Contributions of stakeholders and dialogue with the Institutions remain however of high importance, when reflecting on how to enhance support for rural areas in the future.
“We are delighted to see that the European Commission is strongly considering proposals and reflections from EU institutions and bodies, stakeholder organisations for preparing the EU’s post-2027 budget. The actions of the European Rural Parliament and the outcomes from the main events of the rural pact, in which ELARD has intensively participated, are finally recognized. Our European federation will continue to take part of the discussions and share recommendations to increasingly anchor rural areas at the heart of the European policies” adds Thibaut Guignard.

Indeed, ELARD’s recommendations are listed in the report among the contributions retained by the European Commission, namely : to allocate a higher share of financial resources to the instruments dedicated to local rural development, notably LEADER and community-led local development (CLLD) ; to improve financial support to rural areas by either creating a dedicated EU fund or by strengthening multi-fund approaches ; to create a programme for LEADER and CLLD under direct management directly accessible to participants, e.g. local action groups (LAGs) ; to simplify the procedures and requirements for beneficiaries with limited administrative capacity to access funds ; and to use LAGs to also build local capacities and networking.

“Taking our recommendations into account is an important first step, but it should not be left without follow-up. Without concrete actions for the next 2027 programme, rural development and LEADER remain on hold in an evolving geopolitical context while Europe need rural areas more than ever. LEADER is ready to be the main transformation-method for rural development all over Europe, if the recommendations are implemented” concludes Thibaut Guignard.

With this in mind, European LEADER networks welcome the Report and the next steps the European Commission is committed to take in its reflections on the future policies for rural areas and communities and will continue its engagement in the rural pact to respond to the questions raised in the report.

For more information about DG AGRI’s report: European Commission, Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, The long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas: key achievements and ways forward, 2024

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