Spanish Rural Regions Get Millions for Environmental Protection

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 23, 2001 (ENS) - The European Commission has approved over 200 million euros to improve environmental and economic conditions in rural Spain.

The funds are being distributed under the Leader+ program, a new Community initiative for rural development, one of the four implemented under the Structural Funds for the period 2000-2006. The total European Union contribution to Leader+ in this period will be over two billion euros financed by the EU agriculture budget.

Welcoming the decision, Franz Fischler, European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, said, "This program aims to pilot new ideas to help build a more sustainable society, economy and environment for rural Spain. We want to improve the quality of life for all those who live in rural areas. Leader+ will help to add value to local products and to make the best use of natural and cultural resources."


Franz Fischler, European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries (Photo courtesy European Commission)
The 200 million euros will be spread over four Leader+ projects to assist farms, farming families and small businesses.

The region of La Rioja, with a population of 138,000 people, will receive 11.2 million euros to support three Local Action Groups that will be selected in the region. The funds might be used to find new sources of income by valuing local products and by tourism and leisure activities based on the cultural and natural heritage.

In the Canary Islands, 22.9 million euros will cover the rural areas with more than 420,000 people. They will support up to seven Local Action Groups. Activities in this region could focus on innovative projects to improve the service sector in rural areas, increase the use of new information and communication technology, increase rural tourism, promote local agricultural products and conserve and protect the environment.


Festival in rural Spain (Photo courtesy Turismo Rural)
In the Spanish region of Galicia, 81.8 million euros will go for rural development under the Leader+ program. It will support around 40 Local Action Groups selected in the region. To ensure a bottom-up approach, each local group will define its own measures and goals based on the particular characteristics of its area. These will be set out in development plans drawn up by the local action groups. Some projects could conserve and protect the environment, develop alternative forms of tourism and support job creation, especially for women, and young or disabled people.

The largest regional allotment, 100.5 million euros, will go to Castille-Leon. Around 17 Local Action Groups will be selected in the region, and they will determine how the funds will be spent.

Activities in Castille-Leon could focus on innovative projects to increase the use of new information and ommunication technology, to improve the production and marketing methods of local products, to conserve and protect the environment and develop alternative forms of tourism.

The choice of which local action groups will supported will be made in each region by a selection committee composed by the government of the region, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Regional Federation of Local Councils and Provinces. The groups will submit development plans to the selection committee and the selections will be based on the merits of these plans.

In all regions, European Union support will also be provided for co-operation between rural territories and transnational co-operation to carry out common activities and projects.