A new stage in the Community policy for rural development has begun with the approval of the first LEADER II programme and the setting-up of the European Observatory for Innovation and Rural Development. Mr. Franz Fischler, the European Commissioner responsible for agriculture and rural development, has approved a first series of 22 programmes under the new Community initiative for rural development, LEADER II. He has also selected a body which will assist the Commission in setting up the European Observatory for Innovation and Rural Development, a support structure for Community projects in rural development. LEADER II, initiated on 15 June 1994 by the Commission and following on from LEADER I (1991-1993), is intended to provide support for innovative operations arising out of local development work, and for making these projects known throughout the Community, and for cooperation projects undertaken jointly by rural actors in several Member States. LEADER II has been allocated increased funds compared with the previous period (more than ECU 1,400 million for the period 1994-1999, of which ECU 900 million will go to Objective 1 regions). It will contribute to financing the following measures: - The acquisition of skills needed to help start innovative local development processes which are integrated into the rural environment; - Programmes for rural innovation consisting of operations integrated into local development processes and demonstrating three essential characteristics: innovation, demonstrability, transferability; - Transnational rural cooperation projects. At the end of March and the beginning of April 1995, Mr. Fischler approved a first series of 22 regional and national programmes under LEADER II. They are allocated as follows: - Germany (8 regional programmes); - France (5 regional programmes); - Ireland (1 national programme); - Italy (3 regional programmes); - The Netherlands (2 regional programmes); - Portugal (1 national programme); - United Kingdom (2 regional programmes). These programmes mobilize a total Community contribution of ECU 455.13 million from the three Structural Funds (EAGGF, ERDF and ESF) and will make it possible to carry out operations amounting to ECU 925.97 million. The programmes for the other regions and Member States will be approved in the next few weeks. Mr. Fischler has also decided on the choice of a body which will assist the Commission in setting up the European Observatory for Innovation and Rural Development and will take on a series of administrative and coordination tasks connected with the operation of the European Network for Rural Development which is the focus for the LEADER II initiative. The benefits provided by this body will be as follows: - Collecting, preparing and disseminating information concerning all the Community actions for rural development and the innovative and demonstration schemes financed by LEADER II or from other sources; - Making use of and processing the evaluation work relating to each regional or national LEADER II programme; - Running the European Network for Rural Development, through the medium of advanced communication techniques (electronic mail), various publications, meetings and events, and providing technical support for national networks and non-governmental organizations necessary for the smooth operation of LEADER II; - Providing technical assistance to government services and regional and local authorities in the field of rural development; - Providing technical assistance to facilitate the launching of transnational rural cooperation projects planned under LEADER II.
Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal