More than 650 participants, 36 nationalities and almost 70 speakers took part in the European LEADER Congress which took place on 18 and 19 December 2023, in Brussels (Belgium). ALDA, represented by Mrs. Antonella Valmorbida, ALDA Secretary General and Mr. Adrien Licha, Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Association, participated in the Congress discussing rural development in Europe and the needs and challenges of local communities in the context of the upcoming European elections.
Hosted by the European Parliament, the event was organised in partnership with the European Commission, the European Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The Congress, developed on the initiative of the French Presidency of ELARD (European Association for Rural Development), was attended by over 600 Local Action Groups (LAGs) from all over Europe, officials from the European Commission, MEPs, and representatives of national and regional rural networks and managing authorities.
A special mention goes to Thibaut Guignard, ALDA Governing Board member and representative of LEADER France, who took over the Presidency of ELARD 2023-2024!
The European LEADER Congress represented the occasion for ALDA to present its work and explain the importance of local engagement, supporting the implementation of rural communities and their essential role in strengthening democratic resilience throughout the EU.
Mrs. Valmorbida, ALDA Secretary General, participated in the Congress leading the panel on “Implementing LEADER actions in non-EU countries and fostering cooperation”. Among the speakers, Mrs. Patricia Varzari and Mrs. Marina Albu from LAG Moldova presented the situation in their country and the progress achieved in allowing the creation of LAGs, while Mrs. Sandra Macura from LAG Serbia emphasised the issues related to cooperation with non-EU countries, including linguistic barriers.
Afterwards, Mr. Petar Gjorgievski, President of the Rural Development Network of the Republic of North Macedonia, highlighted the importance of donors in terms of assistance and support to LAGs development.
Mr. Serhii Zamidra, First Deputy Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Association of Communities, continued the discussion highlighting the relevance of the programme and explained the problem of the lack of a standard law for rural development in Ukraine. Finally, Mrs. Marta Martczis, former President of the European Association for Innovation in Local Development (AIEDL) and expert of United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), emphasised the innovation of the LEADER approach on democracy, society and economy.
Moreover, during the day, Mr. Adrien Licha, Coordinator of the Secretariat Office, held the round table on “European elections: challenges of rural areas and how to engage them”.
Protagonists of this session were Mr. Piotr Styczen, representative of the European Youth Card Association, Mrs. Irène Tolleret, MEP and Vice-President of LEADER France and Mr. Bertrand Trepo, representative of the French Marne department. This discussion focused on the upcoming EU elections and on how to involve and facilitate the representation of rural communities.
The panel was also an opportunity to debate around youth’s involvement in the elections and how to face the feeling of underrepresentation in the institutional authorities and political priorities.
We thank LEADER France (ALDA member) and all the participants for this successful event and for sharing with us fundamental values of supporting and promoting democracy at a global level.
We believe that ALDA’s commitment to local communities and their engagement to European policies is a milestone element to ensure a democratic and effective decision making process through a sustainable development.