“The LAGs showed real inventiveness, flexibility and ability to react to the crisis: they are so local that they can react quickly and do exactly what they need to do”


President of European LEADER Association of Rural Development (ELARD), the network that brings together all the Local Action Groups in Europe (LAG). She has worked like LAG manager in Southwester Sweden, so she has a long experience with the LEADER method. Member of the Steering Group of the European Rural Parliament (ERP).

Evaluation and opinion of the ERP 2019, what experience do you remember, what did it mean for you?

I think that it was a wonderful meeting. I really liked it a lot, I enjoyed Candás, the cider and the food, also the beautiful area we’re working, the rain… About this wonderful event where we met a lot of people, the most important for me is the Manifesto and the rural people Declaration. These are the outcomes of the meeting. We used them from the SG also together with READER to visit Brussels in January. It made good impact I think and we can still use these documents when we are working with policy and advocacy. So those are the things that I think is the most important.

What are your expectations for the future of the ERP? Although there is already a new location for the next meeting in 2021 in Poland, you are working on some objectives for two years.

We have a new organisation event plan in Poland, of course, but we will see how it will be possible to implement in these times. As everybody else we need to be flexible and think ahead and what will be possible. I think the decisions will come the coming weeks if we will carry out fully physical or semiphysical or completely digital event.

The ERP is not an organisation, it’s a partnership and I expect that this partnership be so active with the friends for a long time vision rural areas right now. It will influence the policies at the European Union until 2030 actually, and it is very important that we all become active in order to firstly influence that vision takes our knowledge into account and then after to make a reality out of this long time vision. And I also expect are partnership to keep cooperation to the challenge the covid 19 is giving us. I think now it’s the time for ERP to make our voice strength because we can deliver more sustainable livestock and a better quality of live in the rural areas if we have our services. Almost, all my colleagues that I talk to around Europe they are witness that rural areas are getting increasingly attractive, as depend its ready, and there is an opportunity now also to live and work wherever you see fit. So the playgame is changed in a little bit and I do not think that we will back to the old normal again. Now it’s up to us all to do something really extraordinary good out of this new cards.

The pandemic is the new context for all and for everybody.

Yes, it is, unfortunately.

We have a new model.

Yes, I think for all of us. All need to can invent as we go along. It is really hard also to know to plan ahead for two years. That is not possible at the time right now because we don’t know every second way and how long we will be having this problematic. Of course, we are all hoping that the end is going really soon. We need also to plan for the situation. Also there are some good things I think that it’s coming from this situation like how we can connect really quickly to our friends around Europe. We need to take advantage of these good things and keep working.

ELARD is taking part in the latest Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) negotiations: What is this new CAP like for rural development, beyond agriculture?

Firstly it’s delayed but we all know that. Otherwise, we look at a much greener CAP, which focuses on biodiversity and farming, and I am sure that this is how LEADER will work in the new period. The new CAP is, unfortunately, outside of the CPR, the Common Provision Regulation, which means that it’s a bit more complicated to make multifund strategies but I have seen that the engagements member states are going to implement CLLD and anyway so it is possible. CLLD is a great tool to implement European and global strategies at local level and we all have seen many good examples at local green projects. So it is a perfect tool to make Europe green again. As for the Smart Villages, I think now we are focus in other things, but I think it is a great deal also for the digitisation. They are in all policy areas looking for tools in how to engage the citizens and I think there CLLD / LEADER can play a great role.

What will the LEADER programme look like in this new period, and what and how does the new CAP affect it?

We have the obligatory 5% from the rural development, so there will be a LEADER but from the other funds there is no such earmarking. So LEADER can be only LEADER, but it like said before it is very possible on national and regional level programme in to make community-led local development and it is up to the national and regional Governments to make reality out of this. I see that many members of ELARD are making huge progress in negotiating from multifunding but also in how LEADER is a programme in order to achieve local rural development and I would like to mention here Austria, Czech Republic, Latvian and Saxony. They are working in innovative ways with real visions to make the most out of the multilevel governance to the CLLD. You can read more about these examples on our homepage in a good practices leaflet we have there. But also the concept of smart villages may play more or less important role depending on the type of the member states. And definitely the democratic vision of European Union will play a role where the CLLD and its multilevel governance model can be used to answer what many European commissioners are looking for in how to engage citizens.

How do you see the LAG in this new landscape, what role will they play?

I think the LAGs can play an important role in reaching the strategies from the European Union and the national level to local needs and interest and I think that if we are connected to work together, we can also influence the different policies, but I think that we need to think about a common future and we need to really write how we work with strategies right now because I guess most of us will start developing and new local development strategies and there is a real need to see how we make a green angle of this one in order to catch the local people interest in this questions as well.

I think how I see the LAGs in the new landscape… That’s not it because I didn’t time to think the question enough. Also LAGs are really important we have a lot of services during this year. Already during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring time I was a little bit expecting that people were sitting and kind of getting paralyzed at places, but on the contrary most of the LAGs were showing real inventiveness and flexibility and ability to react to the crisis, to the new situation there in because they are so local and they are in their own area and they can therefore react fastly and do exactly what they need right there and right them. And this is real strength that we need to explore further and also mark and show that we have.

How do you see the transition period until 2023 when the new CAP will start?

I think that it’s really good because the EU had made it possible to the member states to decide to provide LEADER implementation funding and as I had understood most members’ states are planning the LEADER implementation to the transition period. I think this is an opportunity for us, the Local Action Groups, to prepare or reinvention our own work at local level as see how we contribute to greener Europe and the more innovative Europe where local areas are autonomous and connected and resilient. So the first date will be to take part in shaping the long-term vision at rural areas and after that we can make it reality together again. So I think it is a great time to use this time to reinvent again and see what we do. And I think it is even good because it is now so fresh the situation that we are in, and maybe if we are now make strategy really quickly, maybe it will be so fitting to the new reality we are in and now we have the possibility to land the little bit and see what is the new map where we are working. We have to use the creativity at local level and also support each other to do that, I think, because I guess the most of the LAGs are reacting with original methods. It’s one of the challengers we have to face to together.

Source of the information: Asturian Network of Rural Development