Since its launch in 1991 by the European Commission as a Community Initiative, the LEADER local development approach has provided rural communities in the EU with a method for involving local partners in shaping the future development of their area. The LEADER approach has attracted a high level of interest within the EU and far beyond, not only in rural areas but also in urban and coastal areas.
The early generations of LEADER received funding from the EU structural funds as a separate Rural Community Initiative. LEADER reached a "maturity" phase in 2004-2006 and has, since 2007, been implemented under Rural Development Programmes and co-funded under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
The success of LEADER in rural areas led other EU Funds to open up the possibility of applying this approach in other types of areas. In the 2007-2013 period it was successfully transferred to the European Fisheries Fund (from 2014 the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, EMFF). From 2014 it also became available in the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). However, the application of this approach is mandatory only in the EAFRD.
For this wider application the term “Community-Led Local Development” (CLLD) is used. LEADER, with its clear reference to rural areas will continue to be used for CLLD under the EAFRD. Since 2014 it is possible for a single Local Development Strategy (LDS) to be supported by several EU Funds (known as multi-funded CLLD). This will enable LAGs (rural, fisheries and urban) to fully explore the potential of the CLLD approach to comprehensively integrate local needs and solutions. It will also allow LEADER-type support to be better coordinated with local development support from other EU funds and thus reinforce the links between rural, urban and fisheries areas.
In order to ensure coherence of LDS and actions across the EU Funds, a minimum framework of common rules has been developed within the “Common Strategic Framework” and are set out in the Common Provisions Regulation.
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