1. Food security and maintaining profitable agriculture in all member states is an important CAP objective but for example OECD defines it as part of “old rural policy paradigm”. “The new rural policy paradigm” looks at wider rural economy, where agriculture often plays smaller role than service and manufacturing industries. The general CAP reform objectives (competitiveness of agriculture, environment and rural vitality) are balanced but the first objective dominates the DG Agri’s CAP Communication paper. For example the demographic problems in rural areas (ageing, out-migration, dropping populations) are not discussed. Until now the EU hasn’t had a rural development policy – we must use the CAP reform opportunity in order to create one and take few steps towards the new rural policy paradigm (DG Agri’s re-focus scenario).
2. Rural tourism, green care and creative industries are good examples of the wider rural economy from the services sector while wood processing, metal processing, mining and construction represent the industry sector. These rural industries have a good capacity to grow and bring Europe towards that smart, sustainable and inclusive growth targeted in the Europe 2020 strategy. The main problems of these usually micro-sized rural businesses are 1) lack of capacity to innovate, 2) family-based businesses need support to become growth-oriented, 3) lack of skilled labour and 4) difficulty to access international markets. These problems must be addressed through the rural development bottom-up measures, where businesses themselves can define their region-specific bottlenecks and apply support for their solution.
3. Since early 1990’s LEADER method has proved its capacity to mobilise bottom-up local development and bring concrete results like new jobs and businesses to countryside. The major strengths behind the method’s widely agreed success are flexibility and adaptability to the whole range of geographic, socio-economic and political circumstances. It fits very well to sparsely populated areas in need of bringing the resources together and finding new solutions. The method’s evolvement within DG Agri and implementation on more than 2 000 areas in all EU member states can be called a European social innovation now spreading to new policy fields and territories even outside the EU. The method must remain in the centre of the future CAP too. It fits very well with the general idea of targeting the larger audience than previous CAPs. Like in the last negotiation round, a minimum 10 % allocation of funds to LEADER must be set to member states. For example in Finland this figure was eventually dropped to 3.7 % due to national political compromises – this game must not be accepted by the DG Agri.
4. Many LEADER practitioners have reported on growing bureaucracy and delays in implementation in 2007-13. Mainstreaming has brought many new rules – like the 3 % sanction rule – that don’t fit into the LEADER development idea and create sense of fear among the project applicants. In the next programming period the LEADER method and its eight specific features (area-specific, bottom-up, partnership structure, multi-sector approach, networking, innovative, trans-national and decentralised) must be better respected. The LEADER shortcomings reported by the European Court of Auditors for example always refer to wrong or non-existing implementation of all eight specific features at the same time either on national, regional or local level.