1. Key messages about local development and CLLD in this country
In Belgium CLLD is implemented separately by the regional authorities of Flanders and Wallonia, each with its own regional specificities. CLLD has a strong tradition in both regions since the creation of LEADER in 1991.
In Flanders it has been successfully implemented as part of the broader Rural Development Programmes. The regional government of Flanders is the management authority for LEADER, in collaboration with the provincial governments.
In Wallonia LEADER has involved from the outset municipalities and local private actors. From the start, the key messages have been the mobilisation of local actors, and public and private partnerships by encouraging the implementation of innovative projects.
3. Possibility of multi-funding (linking several Funds in one strategy)
Neither Flanders nor Wallonia are using multi-funding. Only EAFRD funding (LEADER) is used through this method. In Flanders, the regional and provincial governments provide additional funding to increase the EAFRD funding. In Wallonia, working with mono-funded LAGs has been very efficient, entirely in the spirit of administrative simplification.
4. Number of LAGs
Number of LAGs using this Fund
Total number of LAGs
5. Purposes, objectives for which CLLD is used
In Flanders, during the preparation of the 2014-2020 programme period, aspirant LAGs could choose three topics from a list of 15 on which they would build their Local Development Strategies. Those topics were sufficiently broad as to ensure a bottom-up approach and an area-oriented implementation. Frequently chosen topics were poverty and vulnerability, regional identity, liveable and lively villages, and innovation and knowledge exchange.
In Wallonia, LEADER is implemented under Priority 6 of the Rural Development Programme. There are no thematic restrictions for the local development strategies of LAGs. The LAGs have to give an identity for their territories and select projects meeting this one. The projects are mainly of an intangible nature and concern sectors such as agriculture, environment, mobility, heritage, culture, social cohesion, energy and economy. A minimum of 10% of the LAG budget is reserved for cooperation (interterritorial or transnational).
6. State of play
The current programme period is still running and has been extended to 31 December 2023.
In Flanders, the transition period will be used to approve additional projects to fully achieve the stated objectives. At the same time, the programme period will be evaluated, as well as the added value of LEADER as a method. Together with the provincial governments, the Flemish government will prepare the next CAP programme period. Some major changes and improvements are to be expected, such as the focus on three main topics instead of choosing out of 15. The three priorities are bioeconomy and local agriculture, liveable and lively villages and landscape quality and management. In terms of financial management, possible simplified cost options are being explored to further reduce the overall administrative burdens.
In Wallonia the 20 LAGs have supported nearly 150 projects so far. To the initial EAFRD budget of €13 million, €5.5 million were added as part of the extension of the programme period, which made it possible to fund projects until 31 December 2023. The funding absorption at the end of 2020 was close to 75%. For the future programming period, Wallonia will build on their achievements so far and intend to strengthen the use of SCOs, in particular for staff costs in order to reduce the administrative burden.
7. Key achievements so far
LEADER is an established element of regional and local rural development policies in Flanders. LAGs are well known and can build on experiences and networks gained in previous programme periods. Many LAGs in Wallonia that have been active for several rounds of LEADER have acquired a certain recognition in their territory and have become local actors in their own right.
8. Key barriers encountered
In Flanders, in financial terms, working with eligible costs proved to be a heavy administrative burden with many risks of errors.
In Wallonia, the LAGs have encountered administrative and financial burdens and it is also challenging to keep the mobilisation of private local actors despite these burdens.
9. Some national specificities
Comparative research shows that Flanders is one of few cases where subregional governments (i.e. the provinces) are involved as an additional layer of governance between the management authority and the LAGs. Most LAGs rely on the provincial governments for operational support. The provincial governments have a seat in the LAG boards as public representatives, in addition to the municipalities. The LAGs in Wallonia select the projects that will receive the financial support. Public aid is 90% of the eligible expenditure. A specific feature of Wallonia is that each LAG has to reserve 10% of their total envelope for cooperation projects (interterritorial or transnational).
This new country profile, the 17th in this LDnet series on CLLD in Europe, offers an overview of CLLD in Belgium in the 2014-2020 period: local development approach, use of EU funds, number of LAGs, achievements so far, barriers encountered, national specificities. November 2021
Contributing authors: Wouter Peeters, Nicolas De Fotso Tchienegnom
Series coordination and editing: Urszula Budzich-Tabor, Stefan Kah, Haris Martinos