What is a LEADER?

The LEADER approach, whose name derives from the abbreviations in French „Liaison entre actions de développement rural (LEADER)“ –”Links between rural development activities”, is a method of local development, launched in 1991 and currently implemented by some 2 600 local action groups (LAGs) in the EU, covering over 54% of the EU’s rural population and bringing together stakeholders from public, private and civil sector in a particular area.

Politically, Leader was founded as a “Community Initiative” funded by EU Structural Funds. There are three generations of LEADER so far: LEADER I (1991-1993), LEADER II (1994-1999) and LEADER + (2000-2006). Since 2007, the LEADER approach has been integrated as an instrument of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. In the context of rural development, LEADER is implemented through the EU Member States’ rural development programs co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

Since its establishment until today, the Leader approach has been focused mainly on stimulating and improving the potential for local development in rural areas, relying on local communities’ own initiative and skills. The idea is for local communities to set their own development priorities, after extensive consultation with stakeholders from the civil, non-governmental, business and public sectors, due to the fact that the local population is best aware of its problems, needs, priorities and potential development.  The LEADER  approach, as part of the Community’s rural development policy, is being implemented in Bulgaria for the first time in the 2007-2013 programming period. It is used as a tool for decentralized management and integrated local development in rural areas. Local development strategies meet the overall strategic objectives of the RDP, taking into account the needs of local communities.

 “TheState-of-play of the Implementation of Rural Development Programme Measure 421 in the EU-27


The concept LEADER

The LEADER concept is based on a bottom-up approach to rural development. This means that local actors are involved in the decision-making of the strategy and the selection of development priorities in their local community. Rural policies following this approach should be designed and implemented in a way that is best suited for the needs of the communities they serve.

In a European Commission document entitled ” The LEADER Approach – a basic quide states ” The main concept behind the Leader approach is that, given the diversity of European rural areas, development strategies are more eff ective and effi cient if decided and implemented at local level by local actors, accompanied by clear and transparent procedures, the support of the relevant public administrations and the necessary techni-cal assistance for the transfer of good practice”.

The purpose of the LEADER approach is to encourage local communities in rural areas, to seek new ways to remain competitive, to make the most of their resources and to overcome the challenges they face as: an aging population, poor quality of service delivery, lack of services and employment opportunities, etc.

7 Basic LEADER Principles

The diff erence between Leader and other more traditional rural policy measures is that it indicates ‘how’ to proceed rather than ‘what’ needs to be done.

7 key features summarise the LEADER approach.

  1. Area-based local development strategies.
  2. Bottom-up approach
  3. Public–private partnerships: The local action groups (LAGs)
  4. Facilitating innovation
  5. Новаторски подход (улесняване на иновациите – новаторството):
  6. Networking
  7. Cooperation

Each feature complements and interacts positively with the others throughout the whole implementation pro-cess, with lasting eff ects on the dynamics of rural areas and their capacity to solve their own problems.

What is CLLD?

In the 2014-2020 programming period, the LEADER approach has been broadened under the broader term Community-led Local Development / CLLD to three additional EU funds:


Funding under the ESF, ERDF and EMFF is permitted if such a possibility is envisaged in the LDS of the relevant LAG.

The implementation of the CLLD approach is implemented through integrated and cross-sectoral CLLD strategies based on site-specific characteristics and developed on the basis of local needs and potential, in line with policies at national, regional and local level, including desegregation and deinstitutionalization policies. Strategies typically support the implementation of small projects to diversify local products, improve agricultural activity, small infrastructure projects to renovate villages, etc., which lead to improved quality of life in rural areas to build a better sustainable future.

The main priorities of the CLLD are related to:

promoting social inclusion and poverty reduction;

-an integrated approach to the environment by protecting and conservation the environment and promoting resource efficiency, incl. activities for prevention and risk management and to use the potential of cultural heritage;
focusing on innovation by encouraging implementation;
promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labor mobility;
enhancing the competitiveness of local economies and the ability to create local businesses, including through diversification, alternative activities and sustainable aquaculture production;
improving the quality of education and qualification of the population

The approach is applied on a territorial basis at the level of a municipality or an association of neighboring municipalities and / or neighboring settlements part of a municipality (s). Each community-led local development strategy covers a territory with population of 10,000 to 150,000 inhabitants.

CLLD is applied within rural areas, fisheries areas and in certain territories with specific characteristics as defined in the National Spatial Development Concept.

The approach is implemented through measure 19 ‘Community Led Local Development’ from the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020., which envisages the implementation of the following sub-measures:

Sub measure 19.1. Help for preparatory activities

Sub measure 19.2. Implementation of operations within the strategies for community-led local development 

Sub measure 19.3. Preparation and implementation of cooperation activities of local action groups

Sub measure 19.4. Running costs and promote a strategy for community-led local development

Find more in European Network for Rural Development’s LEADER Cooperation web based resource.

Local Action Groups (LAGs)

Establishing local partnerships, known as the Local Action Group / LAG, is an original and important feature of the Leader / CLLD approach. LAG aims to identify and implement the local development strategy by deciding on the allocation and management of financial resources.

Funding decisions LEADER / CLLD are made locally and the local development strategy, led by the community, provides the framework, which takes into resheniyata.V within the LAG implementing partners are responsible for the daily management and coordination of Leader / CLLD on place. Implementation partners provide to applicants for funding   in their area through grant assistance, such as counseling, training and mentoring.In the 2007-2013 programming period, Bulgaria has the foundations for building local capacity to implement development strategies with Bottom-up approach in 35 LAGs located in 57 municipalities. This capacity provides a good basis for upgrading the implementation of the Leader approach in the RDP 2014-2020. For more information on Leader / CLLD funding in your area, including how to apply for a grant, you can contact the LAG of the region.


You can find LAGs in your region through an LAG information interactive map in Bulgaria, created and maintained by the National Association of Local Action Groups in Bulgaria. https://vomr.bg/

What is LEADER Cooperation?

Cooperation is characteristic of a number of rural development programs for the period 2014-2020.
LEADER / CLLD cooperation aims to encourage rural areas to work together on joint projects of mutual benefit to each of the participating countries
. This collaboration is more than networking and has many potential benefits, such as:

–        expanding local perspectives to improve local strategies;

–        access to information and new ideas;

–        learning from other regions or countries;

–        stimulating and supporting innovation;

–        acquiring skills and means to improve delivery. There are different types of Leader / CLLD cooperation, whose projects are supported through the EAFRD in 2014-2020:

–        intra-territorial cooperation – taking place between two or more LAGs in a Member State – transnational cooperation – taking place between two or more LAGs from different Member States.

Co-operation support is a mandatory element of the CLLD / LEADER measure, and support for co-operation preparatory activities and support for co-operation projects is included in the RDP. This is advisable but not mandatory at the LAG level, ie individual LAGs can decide for themselves whether to use the available cooperation assistance or not to use it.

Collaboration can evolve into more than just networking. This includes the LAG, which undertakes a joint project with another LEADER group or with a group using a similar approach in another region, Member State or even a third country. Collaboration projects are not just about sharing experiences. These should include the implementation of a specific common idea and action, ideally managed under a common structure.

“A guide to the implementation of LEADER cooperation programs for rural development programs 2014-2020.https://enrd.ec.europa.eu/sites/enrd/files/leader-cooperation-guide_bg_update_april-2017.pdf

In ENRDC website you can find ads for search partners for cooperation “Cooperation Overview”, prepared by FARNET https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/fpfis/cms/farnet/files/FARNET-Cooperation-Overview-2016.pdf

Contains information on FLAGs, number in Member States, possible project promoters, level of organization of cooperation, possible types of partners and countries, announcements of cooperation and specifics of cooperation regarding CLLD / LEADER cooperation.

Discover more at European Network for Rural Development’s LEADER Cooperation web based resource.

LEADER achievements for the period 2007 - 2013

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