Finally, spring has arrived to Sweden. Even though hibernation sometimes seems tempting during the dark and cold part of the year, February has been a busy month.
It was an intensive meeting with our enthusiastic Steering Committee in the beginning of February. We discussed the annual activity plan, which led to more specific objectives and expected results for the focus areas that the Steering Committee prioritized at their December meeting. Eight new stakeholder organizations were accepted as network members. (We work with formal membership, as the members can initiate and carry out network activities with funding from our NRN budget.) Among other issues, the Steering Committee discussed activities concerning the Marin and Fishery program. We hope to start the fishery network as a part of our NRN late this autumn, but meanwhile different fishery and marine stakeholders participate in our ongoing work and focus areas.
We have appointed new participants in different European rural network groups. In the Assembly we have six representatives from all the categories that the Commission has asked for. We have one representative in the Steering Committee from the Managing Authority. In the permanent Sub Group for Leader we have three representatives, one from the Managing Authority and managers from two LAG. In the permanent Sub Group for Innovation there is a representative from our NSU. In addition, we hope that the chairman/chairwoman from three of our working groups will be able to participate in the Stakeholder seminar in March besides one person from NSU. One member of our Swedish Steering Committee will represent our NRN in the thematic working group for Implementation. So, all in all, there are 16 swedes involved in European network groups representing different categories in our NRN.
Some of the expectations we have on the European networking are to:
February and March are the months of waiting for the CLLD groups. The 51 local development strategies are submitted and the selection committee is reading and evaluating the strategies. Compared to the 63 LAGs and 14 FLAGs during the last program period there has been a decrease in number, but still the territorial coverage is all Swedish rural territory. Some old groups have merged and some new have been formed. We hope all the strategies will be approved so there will be no white spots on the rural map, despite some quite hard selection criteria. The hardest though will be for some old LAGs to survive and keep their staff until the new rural development program is approved and all other things are set to get started.
The coordination group for CLLD, where both LAGs and FLAGs are represented together with the Managing Authority, the Paying Agency and several national organisations including representatives from ERF and ESF, is working hard to passing between two program periods as smooth as possible. With smaller working groups on the themes of Dialogue with the Managing Authority, IT-system and handling procedures and FLAGs in the multi fund CLLD the Coordination group is working to identify obstacles and hurdles and find solutions. One new group will work with quality issues in the process from preparing an application, making it a real application to LAG, monitoring the project until final payment.
A thematic working group for rural youth is just about to start. A chairwoman has been appointed. She is a young representative from the village movement “All Sweden shall live”. During February and March the main focus is to recruit the interested member organisations to form the group. Some of them might be rather new members that recently have discovered the NRN as a forum for cooperation for rural development. After recruiting the group members, the first task is to form a working plan. The main aim will be to find ways to increase the number of young people in boards of rural associations, including LAGs, and to get more young people to use the measures in the rural development program. The work might also include helping these groups to be organized and a stakeholder in the NRN.
A Swedish delegation consisting of Sofia Lindblad, chairman of the Swedish NRN working group Green businesses , Matilda Göransson, responsible for activities in Green businesses subgroup working with young green entrepreneurs, Leif Öster, newly appointed chairman of the Rural Tourism Group and Nils Lagerroth, from our NSU visited the Finnish Rural Network on 24 February.
The purpose of the meeting was to specifically inform each other how to work with issues affecting green businesses and ecotourism and how these issues are dealt with in each country. Besides general issues the Finnish rural network especially informed about EIP and the proposed activities in the four new working groups; Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Youth and Environment.
From the Finnish side participated the chairmen (but not the chairman of the Youth group) and secretaries at the NSU for the four working groups. In addition, representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry attended the meeting as well as Petri Rinne and Thomas Norrby, Geographical experts for Finland and Sweden at the ENRD Contact Point.
The Swedish delegation was very pleased with the information and dialogue that was given by the Finnish hosts, and brought home a number of concrete examples of how Finland is working with the same issues as in Sweden, but done in other ways and with other activities. A number of proposals for concrete cooperation projects were another result of the meeting.