(22 November 2018) – In a remarkable keynote paper prepared for the “LEADER Reloaded” ELARD conference (Evora, 26-28 September 2018), Robert Lukesch, European expert in rural development, summarises the evolution, current situation and future challenges of LEADER.
Launched in 1991, LEADER (‘Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Economie Rurale’) was first a pilot programme (LEADER I and II) before being extended to all EU rural areas (LEADER+, 2000) and then integrated as a specific mode of intervention in the European Fund for Agriculture and Rural Development (Axis 4 of the EAFRD) in 2007.
LEADER’s local, bottom-up, integrated, partnership-based and innovative approach has had a profound impact on European development policies and inspired the concept of community-led local development (CLLD), which has been adopted and financed since 2014 by other European structural funds (ERDF, ESF and FEAMP), with the possibility of combining these different sources of funding in a multi-fund approach.
The price of this achievement is that LEADER has gradually lost its role as a ‘laboratory’ for rural development, which it played over its first ten years. Its implementation has to a certain extent become institutionalised and bureaucratised.