The European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) is the hub that connects rural development stakeholders throughout the European Union (EU). Its mission is to contribute to the efficient implementation of the rural development policy.
Rural development is a vitally important policy area, affecting over 50% of the population of the European Union (EU) and almost 90% of the EU territory. Farming and forestry remain central to rural economies, but rural development also focuses on revitalising rural areas in other ways. Furthermore, issues such as climate change, renewable energy, biodiversity and water management are becoming increasingly important aspects of the EU’s rural development policy.
Over €200 billion in funding is available to support the implementation of 94 Rural Development Programmes (RDPs) across the European Union, for the programming period 2007-2013. Almost half of this money is provided by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), overseen by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development. Funds are utilised for a variety of rural development goals, including improving the competitiveness of farm, forest and agri-food businesses; helping to protect the natural environment; and supporting rural economies and quality of life in rural areas.
The European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) was set up by the European Commission, Directorate- General for Agriculture and Rural Development, in 2008, to help Member States implement their Rural Development Programmes (RDPs) in an efficient manner. The ENRD serves as a platform for the sharing of ideas and experience on how rural development policies are working in practice and how they can be improved. Its main stakeholders include National Rural Networks (NRNs), Member State authorities, LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGs) and rural development organisations with an EU perspective.
The ENRD provides wide-ranging support to rural development stakeholders and informs the EU rural development policy debate by:
- highlighting examples of successful rural development projects across the European Union;
- assisting National Rural Networks (NRNs);
- promoting transnational cooperation (TNC) amongst Local Action Groups (LAGs); and
- providing analysis of relevant themes including the broader benefits of agriculture, as well as relevant themes such as forestry, social farming and rural entrepreneurship.
The ENRD shares information with stakeholders in a variety of ways, including through its participation at events and fairs across Europe. In addition, ENRD publications include the e-newsletter Rur@l Newsflash, the ENRD Magazine, the quarterly EU Rural Review and dedicated thematic brochures. The ENRD website provides access to a comprehensive set of multi-purpose and multilingual information: e.g. a newsreel keeps ENRD stakeholders up-to-date with latest developments; the quick link to ‘Country’ pages provides in-depth information for each EU Member State; interactive tools are available to promote better networking and communications; and lots more…
The ENRD Contact Point (CP) supports the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission in running the network and provides a focal point for ENRD activities. Based in Brussels, the core team is complemented by a larger group of non-permanent experts who have in-depth knowledge of a wide range of rural development fields. In particular, the ENRD CP provides support for networking and cooperation, it undertakes thematic analysis, organises events and communicates proactively.
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The aims of the European Network for Rural Development are to:
- collect, analyse and disseminate information on EU rural development measures and practices;
- provide information on developments in rural areas;
- organise meetings and seminars;
- set up and run networks to facilitate exchange of expertise, support implementation and evaluation of rural development policy;
- support the national networks and transnational cooperation initiatives.
Stakeholders and beneficiaries
The network's activities are intended to support and benefit:
- relevant administrations and institutions;
- rural networks;
- relevant organisations at European level;
- Local Action Groups;
- Other bodies and actors concerned with rural development.
The structure of the ENRD includes:
A Coordination committee which
- assists the Commission in the preparation and implementation of the ENRD's annual work plan and activities;
- ensures coordination between the ENRD, the national rural networks and organisations active in rural development;
- coordinates thematic work carried out by the ENRD;
A LEADER subcommittee which
- advises the Commission on the annual work programme of the ENRD concerning the LEADER axis;
- contributes to coordination of thematic work;
- supports the Commission's monitoring of the implementation of transnational cooperation projects.
A European Evaluation Network for Rural Development to exchange expertise and establish best practice on evaluation of the rural development policy. This network is coordinated by an Evaluation Expert Committee.
The Contact Point
The ENRD Contact Point provides the European Commission (Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development) with technical assistance in support of the European Network for Rural Development. As the primary support mechanism for the ENRD, its main activities include:
- Support to the Coordination committee, LEADER Subcommittee, Thematic Working Groups;
- Support for ENRD cooperation, information exchange, networking and publications;
- Support for analysis/summary of rural development programmes and monitoring indicators;
- Collection and dissemination of relevant experience on programme implementation;
- Organising European level meetings and seminars.
In operational terms the Contact Point is organised in three Groups which reflect the three main elements of the ENRD strategy, namely:
- Knowledge development (analysis)
- Knowledge sharing (communication)
- Exchange and cooperation (networking)
Legal basis for the ENRD
The essential rules governing rural development policy for the period 2007 to 2013 are based on Council Regulation (EC) N° 1698/2005 of 20 September 2005 on support for rural development from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). These rules also govern the policy measures available to Member States and regions. Under this Regulation, rural development policy for 2007 to 2013 is structured along 3 thematic and one horizontal axes.
Chapter II of this regulation is devoted to technical assistance. Its Article 68 specifies that "each Member State shall establish a national rural network, which groups the organisations and administrations involved in rural development".
With the aim to ensure the networking of these national networks, organisations and administrations active in the field of rural development at Community level, the establishment of a network named "European Network for Rural Development" was foreseen in Article 67.