We have already published our review of the special report of the European Court of Auditors on LEADER and CLLD, in response to the overall message from the ECA that “LEADER and community-led local development facilitates local engagement but additional benefits still not sufficiently demonstrated”.
We now publish the formal responses of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.
The Commission response includes the following points:
LEADER covers not only economic but also social and environmental sustainability and is therefore relevant to any rural areas in the EU.
The projects supported by LEADER are based on the local development strategies collectively negotiated by the local stakeholders. The better quality or results of LEADER projects can manifest themselves in a variety of ways directly resulting from the LEADER method such as: innovation at the local level, proximity and active animation to involve participants, who would otherwise not participate, more sustainability, valorisation of unique territorial assets including creative and traditional industries, support to local identity, provision of services to the community, links between projects and participants and other aspects. Some projects cover basic local needs (especially in municipalities with a weak tax base), which are often a pre-requisite for other developments, and which would be delayed or simply go unmet without LEADER. The Commission will encourage the Member States to target the eligibility of LEADER intervention to areas where there would be a greater added value of using the LEADER approach, yet while leaving sufficient scope for bottom-up decisions to fit the local needs and choices.
In addition, the comparison of LEADER delivery with other funding models, would be a complex task with a proper recognition of the intangible contributions of LEADER on one hand and risks and costs of the other funding schemes on the other hand.
The Council conclusions include the following points:
5. TAKES NOTE of the view that the multi-fund approach introduced for the 2014-20 programming period to better coordinate local development support and to reinforce the links between rural, urban and fisheries areas, in its current form, may lead to increased complexity for funding local development projects;
6. RECOGNISES that there is room for improvement towards ensuring that the local action groups’ partnerships are inclusive and in particular that young people, women and less advantaged groups participate in the decision-making process. However, HIGHLIGHTS the fact that due to a depopulation of rural areas it is not always possible to define and achieve desired targets;
7. NOTES that further work is needed, via monitoring, evaluation methodologies and networking at EU level, towards a better assessment and demonstration of the added value of the LEADER approach to social capital and local governance;
For the full texts of the responses click below.