NPR - Community Led Rural Development European Union Policy 2014-2020 Potential For Progression Or Regression?
Community Led Local Development (CLLD) has been directly supported by the European Commission via the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) since 1991 through a mechanism called the ‘LEADER Measure’. This approach has been particularly successful in Ireland with the evolution of community led Non Government Organisation’s known as Local Action Groups across the state. These local development bodies have been recognised across Europe for their effectiveness, innovation and flexibility. They are deeply embedded and linked within their communities and have created a higher level of added-value to the LEADER funds than any equivalent structures in the EU. Over the past twenty one years Irish Local Action Groups have evolved to attract a broad range of funds (not just EAFRD) and shape these into an integrated suite of supports for entrepreneurs, target groups and communities. A new CLLD ‘Multi-Fund’ mechanism was agreed by the European Commission as part of the EU Structural Funds 2014-2020 which could see rural Local Action Groups accessing a range of EU funding opportunities and would be additional to the LEADER Measure of the EAFRD. The European Commission want to encourage Member States to adopt this approach and has introduced additional incentives to achieve this goal. Irish Local Action Groups, based on their experience and capacity to operate in this ‘Multi-Fund’ arena should at this time be perfectly placed to maximise these opportunities. However in parallel there are emerging complications and challenges. The adoption of the new Multi-Fund Approach to CLLD is ’optional’ for Member States. Its inclusion as part of the delivery of the EU Structural Funds must be agreed and adopted in the coming months. There are indications that few if any Member States will make use of the CLLD Multi-Fund Mechanism. An additional complication has emerged in Ireland through a recently published ‘National Policy’, generated by the Department with Responsibility for Local Government and Community Funds, that suggests a new ‘LAG Type Structure’ within the Local Authorities may be allocated the responsibility to manage LEADER in the future. This paper will explore the background to these positions and will consider the potential impacts for rural communities. The authors would seek to promote a debate on the merits and challenges presented by the Multi-Fund Approach to CLLD through the forum of the IFMA 19 Congress, as these issues and related decisions will be taking place in Member States across the EU during the Summer-Autumn Period of 2013.
Keywords: rural development policy, LEADER, European Union