Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Previous programme


Successor programme


Programme funding

EUR 1 400 million

Official Journal Reference

C 180 of 1994-07-01
To stimulate innovative measures by those, whether public or private, engaged at local level in all sectors of rural activity, to make known the results of experiments throughout the Community, and to assist rural operators in different Member States who wish to profit from the lessons learnt elsewhere and to work jointly on some projects.


The LEADER II initiative is established to supplement and reinforce the measures started under LEADER I (1991-1993) during the period 1994-1999. LEADER II addresses the persistent problems affecting rural areas with weak economies (particularly in the context of the reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy launched in 1993) and incorporates the reactions to the LEADER initiative within the context of the Commission Green Paper on Community initiatives (COM(93) 282).

In addition to ensuring continuity with LEADER I, the new initiative will place greater emphasis on the following aspects:

- Innovation as a response to major changes occurring in rural areas (such changes are creating a need for new measures, orientations and forms of development that involve all those concerned);

- The launching of transnational cooperation projects originating in rural areas;

- The exchange of experience and know-how among all interested parties in the Community through a European rural development network.

The European rural development network provides a framework for the circulation of information on rural development policies, the exchange of experience among those involved in rural development, the dispersion of innovation and know-how (in particular to assist the most handicapped rural areas), and the setting up of joint projects between rural areas located in different Member States. Rather than replacing existing networks, the new European rural development network is designed to serve as a meeting point for them. A European Observatory of Rural Innovation and Development will be established to serve it.


Four types of measures:

- Acquisition of skills:
Provision of pre-investment technical assistance for local development with a view to initiating an integrated development process in areas where this practice is new. Assistance is provided upon request and covers:
. Analysis of the local area;
. Informing the public about Leader;
. Technical support for the formation of local partnerships;
. Technical support for drawing up of local integrated development strategies;
. Technical support for potential beneficiaries (local groups and other collective bodies) in seeking financing and preparing applications;
- Rural innovation programmes (local groups and other collective bodies):
Projects must include elements of innovation and elements that are capable of functioning as a model to be assessed in the light of the area's characteristics and the content of the operational programme under the Community Support Framework for that area. Projects submitted by local groups must include several of the elements listed below. In the case of other collective bodies, the local project may be limited to a single operational element:
. Technical support for rural development;
. Training and recruitment assistance;
. Rural tourism;
. Small firms, craft enterprises and local services;
. Local exploitation and marketing of agriculture, forestry and fishery products;
. Preservation and improvement of the environment and living conditions;

- Transnational cooperation:
Design and implementation of joint projects by those involved at local level in rural areas belonging to at least two Member States. Support is given towards the costs of participation in activities of the European rural development network (identification of potential partners, setting up cooperation projects, etc.). Eligible measures are identical to those listed above under the rural innovation programmes heading;

- Networking:
Extension of the existing LEADER network for the benefit of all those concerned in rural development and the establishment of the "European Observatory of Rural Innovation and Development " whose role will be to identify, specify, validate and facilitate the transfer of innovations implemented in rural areas.


Projects under the LEADER II initiative are jointly financed by the Member States and the Community. The total Structural Funds contribution to LEADER for the period 1994-1999 is estimated at ECU 1400 million at 1994 prices, of which ECU 900 million is set aside for Objective 1 regions. Community contribution rates are applied in accordance with the rules set out in the Regulations governing the Structural Funds. Within the ceilings fixed by these Regulations, measures concerning skills acquisitions and transnational cooperation may be granted higher rates. An indicative amount of not more than 2.5% of the overall Community contribution is reserved to finance the activities of the new European network under LEADER (including the Observatory for innovation and rural development and for support to the national networks).

LEADER II is primarily targeted on Objective 1 and Objective 5(b) regions. However, a maximum of 10% of the funds allocated to Objective 5(b) regions under LEADER II may be used in adjoining rural areas which do not have Objective 1 or 5(b) status. Final beneficiaries are principally local action groups as defined by LEADER I and, secondarily, other rural collective bodies, either public or private (for example, Chambers of agriculture, industry, commerce, or crafts, cooperatives, business groups, groups of local authorities, non-profit making organizations), providing that their more specific activities relate to a plan for the rural development of a local area.

In contrast to LEADER I, the second phase of the LEADER initiative is highly decentralized with the Commission no longer intervening directly in the selection of projects and beneficiaries. Rather, the LEADER programmes are implemented by regional or national "planning and decision making partnerships" which consist, at a minimum, of all those who will provide part finance at national level (State, region, other local collective bodies).

The partnerships are responsible for drawing up regional LEADER programmes which should contain a synthesis of the specific operations already submitted by potential local beneficiaries (local groups and other collective bodies). The regional programmes must illustrate examples of the type of measures to be implemented and demonstrate their appropriateness to the objectives and eligibility criteria of the initiative.

The regional or national programmes are submitted to the Commission who negotiate in partnership with the Member States the final content of the programmes. The regional or national partnerships are then allocated a budget by the Commission, the form of which is decided in partnership (operational programme, integrated global grant committed in the form of annual instalments, or multi-annual contacts within a national programme or subsidy). The programmes will be concluded for the entire period of the initiative (1994-1999) but must contain a clause allowing for a mid-term review in order to ensure that available funds are used to the best possible effect.

The individual selection of the projects and beneficiaries under the programmes, together with the financial and administrative management of the regional programmes, falls within the exclusive competence of these partnerships. In implementing their LEADER programmes, the decision making partnerships must, however, comply with Community policies, criteria for the eligibility of measures under the structural funds and permissible rates of assistance.

In addition to the continuous assessments on the regional or national programmes to be conducted by the partnerships, two statutory assessments of LEADER II will take place (one mid-term and the other at the end of the initiative) in order to examine the impact of LEADER II measures at national and Community levels.


LEADER 2 was established by a Decision of the European Commission, meeting on 15 June 1994, in accordance with the provisions of the Regulations governing the Structural Funds.
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