At the IFUL institute there is a lot of research and development experience with the European LEADER approach for rural development. During the previous LEADER+ programme from 2000 to 2006, Annette Aagaard Thuesen worked in the Danish National Network Unit for LEADER+ which was hosted by the institute. She is currently finishing a report for the Danish Food Industry Agency and the National Network Unit on the composition of the Danish LAG boards within the Rural Development (RD) and Fisheries programme 2007-2013 of which an English summary will soon be available.
For the Nordic countries, one of the results of mainstreaming the LEADER approach into the current RD Programme’s (2007 – 2013) of the Common Agricultural Policy is an increase in the number of Local Action Groups (LAGs) and an increased geographical coverage of areas working with the LEADER approach. Denmark raised the number of LAG’s from 12 to 55, Sweden from 12 to 65 and Finland kept its high number of 58. In the Netherlands, this expansion took place during the previous LEADER+ period and the current programme added 3 new LAG’s to the 28 of last period.
In Denmark, interestingly, the expansion of the LEADER approach led to a change in the institutional arrangements of LAG’s to secure the input legitimacy of the Danish LAG’s. Before, LAG members were, as in the Netherlands, appointed, without clear standards of entry. In this period LAG members are chosen by election and LAG’s have to be organized as associations with open and free membership, much like the Irish model. All people over 15 years living in the LAG area can be registered a member of the association and they can participate in elections. Board members are elected for two years and are to represent four groups:
– local citizens
– local enterprises and trade organizations
– local nature- environment- culture- citizen- and leisure associations
– public authorities
Like in the Netherlands, Danish LAG’s are mainly focused on the diversification of the rural economy, the so called ‘axis 3’ objective in the Rural Development Programme.