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Territorial cooperation for the provision of public goods in the context of the reformed CAP
24-25 April 2014, De Klinze, Aldtsjerk, The Netherlands

Summary

The conference was organised by the “Groupe de Bruges” - an independent network on EU Agricultural and Rural Development policies – as the second of a series of three conferences, with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the French Ministry of Agriculture and under the sponsorship of a number of local organisations and initiative. The conference was attended by around 70 participants from across EU including: representatives from national authorities, the EC, environmental NGOs, academics and researchers as well as national and local organisations, mainly from the Netherlands. The two-day event included: an opening plenary session, four parallel workshops, field visits (day 1) and a closing plenary (day 2). Speakers included, representatives from the Dutch Ministry, a keynote speaker and a number of invited participants presenting concrete experiences and views according to the subject of the workshops.

Main findings

The scope of the conference was to present and discuss a proposal for setting up a European network to exchange examples of territorial/collective approaches for the delivery of public goods and promote improvements in policy implementation. The address from the key note speaker contributed to frame the policy context in which the initiative was proposed and highlighted the existence around Europe of an increasing number of initiatives for the joint delivery of public goods through AEM. An important conceptual distinction made concerned the difference between “territorial” and “collective” approaches and the need to include both in the discussion. Key points raised in the following discussion focused, among others, on the need to strengthen cooperation between administrations and farmers/land managers; controlling free-riders behaviours, ensuring compliance with EU rules without incurring in increased transaction costs for practitioners; the role of LEADER as a possible instrument to drive collective actions; the value of exchanges across EU and mutual learning about different contexts/practices.

Workshop 1 dealt with information sharing and capacity building. A number of practices and research experiences on collective approaches were presented which raised the questions of how to define and develop “social capital” and “social innovation” as a prerequisite for successful collective actions. These were recognised to be important drivers not only for environmental outcomes but, more in general, for enhancing competitiveness of local systems. In this respect, it was reminded about the relevance of H2020 call for projects about unlocking the potential of rural area through social innovation.

The concluding plenary session was opened by a video from Commissioner Cioloş which, while endorsing the initiative promoted by the conference, insisted on the need to: not separate competitiveness from environmental reflections; ensure transparency and equality of treatment across EU; engage farmers and land managers in joint actions; prove results by means of adequate indicators; make use of new policy instruments, such as the cooperation measure and the EIP-AGRI.

In the final session, participants commented on the creation of the European Network proposed by the Groupe de Bruges. Overall participants endorsed and appreciated the content of the draft document prepared but insisted on some key aspects, including: the need to include social aspects among the public goods potentially delivered through collective actions; simplify the core messages of the proposed paper, namely to clarify the overall scope as well as the operational objectives to be reached through the creation of the network; differentiate the message according to the different target groups (farmers, policy makers etc.); consider the possible interactions within existing EU networks (ENRD CP and EIP-AGRI) in order to avoid to replicate initiatives and exploit existing knowledge/expertise; anticipate the proposed timing envisaged for the release of the paper in order to potentially influence the national and regional strategies and programme under development.

The topic of the initiative and the proposal for a European network are both very relevant items to past and current work of the ENRD CP. The development of the initiative should be followed up by the ENRD CP and possible synergies should be looked at, if and when addressing the topic of public goods delivery through RDPs in the future.