The congress brought together Local Action Group (LAG) members from across Europe, officials from the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) committed to LEADER and rural development, as well as representatives of national and regional rural networks, management authorities and CAP Networks. In total, over 650 participants, 36 nationalities and more than 70 speakers were represented.
Day one comprised of a plenary session within the hemicycle of the European Parliament. The added value of LEADER and its influence on new rural development policies, particularly within the framework of the European Rural Pact, was highlighted. Speaking at the event, Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “We are convinced of the importance of LEADER and rural communities. What was initially only a vision is now an essential tool that citizens, authorities and Member States can use. Today, thanks to the ambition and efforts of LEADER, we are implementing the long-term vision through the Rural Pact. But to achieve our ambitions, we must strengthen the LEADER-CLLD approach.”
Day two was hosted at the European Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Council. CAP Network Ireland attended three workshops over the course of the day, which included:
· Taking stock of what works in LEADER to strengthen the approach for the future;
· Exploring the benefits of cooperation and collaboration with LEADER; and
· Activating innovation by locals in Smart and Start-up villages.
More information about the event, including information on the speakers, the full congress agenda and a gallery of images can be found here.