Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 5 Apr 2000

Vol. 517 No. 4

Written Answers. - Leader Programmes.

Ulick Burke


154 Mr. U. Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development when details of the Leader scheme will issue; the reason for the delay; the way in which it will differ from Leader II; if there will be greater emphasis on input to rural development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10103/00]

The European Commission is currently finalising the Leader+ draft guidelines document, having regard to the observations of the European Parliament which have been accepted by the member states. It is expected that the commission will shortly publish the definitive guidelines. Based on these guidelines, member states will draw up operational programmes for Leader+ for forwarding to the commission for approval. The commission over a period of some months will subject the programmes to detailed examination to ensure in particular that they show evidence of significant innovation to the requisite standard for approval.

Under the national development plan, funding of the order of £110 million will be available to support Leader+ type activity in the period 2000-6. Some £35.4 million of this is to be provided by the EU in respect of the Leader+ programme. The balance will come from the National Exchequer and will comprise national co-funding of £20 million for Leader+ as well as support for a mainstream Leader type measure. As with other measures provided for in the national development plan, approval by the European Commission is necessary to enable commencement of arrangements for the establishment of Leader mainstream activity.

Pending EU clearance for Leader+ activity and Leader mainstream activity under the national development plan, it is not possible to define the precise arrangements for delivery. It is clear, however, that the commission's intention is that Leader+ funding will be confined to a limited number of rural areas and that the essential aim of the Leader+ measure will be to encourage the emergence and testing of new approaches to integrated and sustainable development.

The indication is that the requisite Leader+ activity should be innovative and novel and should focus principally on integrated territorial rural development strategies of a pilot nature while maintaining the bottom up strategy and seeking to forge horizontal partnerships; support for inter-territorial and transnational co-operation and networking of all areas of the European Union.

Because Leader+ will be a more focused programme than its predecessors, and some rural areas will not be covered, the national Leader mainstream programme will apply nationwide and will cater for aspects which will not be eligible under Leader+, in particular aspects of rural tourism.
The report of the task force on the integration of local government and local development systems requires that attention be given to the avoidance of overlap between agencies including Leader groups and to exploring mechanisms capable of combining rural development and rural partnership activities in rural disadvantaged areas specifically.
Groups have been funded to the 30 June 2000 Leader II completion date and I am conscious that a further period will elapse before the coming on stream of the new Leader measures. Accordingly, I have secured interim funding in respect of the period from 30 June 2000 to 31 December 2000 to assist with the administrative costs of existing groups. Such funding will be made available to groups who submit a plan document outlining their needs in this area. Any funding of existing groups will be without prejudice to the selection of groups for the delivery of the new Leader activity.