LEADER (Acronym derived from French:
Actions de Développement de
l'Économie Rurale") is an acronym
that stands for "links between actions for the development of the
rural economy". Information obtained through the evaluation of
LEADER, and that obtained from stakeholders based in rural areas
shows the advantages of LEADER as an instrument that achieves
results in various situations and fields, which contributes to the
adjustment of rural policies to the specific needs of respective
rural areas. By encouraging local-level participation in the
formulation and implementation of sustainable development
strategies, this approach has a growing impact on future rural
In the course of its evolution since 1991, LEADER had the status
of an initiative in the three previous generations. In the
current planning period, 2007-2013, it has transformed into an
integral part of the European Rural Development Policy - LEADER
axe, and became an obligatory component of Member States'
rural development programmes. In the past period, LEADER+, there
were 893 active LAGs in 15 "old" Member States, comprising a total
population of 52 million. Prior to the accession of Bulgaria and
Romania, six countries out of the ten new Member States decided to
implement LEADER+, which resulted in about one hundred new LAGs.
Cooperation between LAGs resulted in almost one thousand local and
more than three hundred cross-border projects.
LEADER tells us about how something should be
done, and not what. It is made up of several
components - principles which should be followed
collectively, i.e. not separately:
Sustainable rural development - development based on the
preservation and balanced development of environmental, social and
Area-based approach - each rural area has its own
characteristics, potential, special and distinctive features -
future planning should be based on them.
Bottom-up approach - broad inclusion of all available
resources in local communities, resulting in a multitude of ideas
and possible solutions, will contribute to appropriate
Establishment of local partnerships - fragmented
initiatives are often ill-fated, particularly in small
environments, because they lack force, cogency and community trust;
thus, establishment of ties and partnerships, and development of a
cooperation spirit are crucial. LEADER's original idea is the
creation of local public-private partnerships in the form
of local action groups - LAGs.
Innovation - tradition clearly forms the basis of
sustainable rural development, but innovation is necessary in order
to present traditional values in a new and competitive way.
Integrated and multi-sectoral approach - sectoral
divisions often create development problems. Horizontally,
cross-sectoral linking, as well as vertically, linking between
local regional and national institutions, is of particular
importance in achieving sustainable rural development.
Networking - linking, lessons from best practice cases,
transfer and exchange of knowledge and experience feature
prominently in the implementation of LEADER, because different
individual cases are integrated into a development pattern
consisting of European rural regions, whilst also ensuring mutual
assistance and support.
Cooperation - it is a step further from networking,
towards setting things in motion and implementing joint projects
between two or more LAGs within the country, region and/or European