Rural development and accompanying measures during the period 2000-06 were financed by the EAGGF Guarantee Section or Guidance Section, depending on their regional context [see section 12.3.2.]. Thus, Community support for early retirement, less-favoured areas and areas with environmental restrictions, agri-environmental measures and afforestation were financed by the EAGGF Guarantee Section throughout the European Union. Union support for other rural development measures was financed by the EAGGF Guidance Section in areas covered by Objective 1 (integrated into the programmes) and Guarantee Section in areas outside Objective 1 [see sections 12.1.1 and 12.3.1].
Through two Regulations adopted in 2005, the EAGGF was split in two different but complementary instruments: the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF), for the financing of market measures, and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) [see section 21.3.3]. Regulation 1698/2005 [last amended by Regulation 1312/2011] established the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The EAFRD contributes to the promotion of sustainable rural development throughout the EU in a complementary manner to the market and income support policies of the common agricultural policy, to cohesion policy and to the common fisheries policy. Support for rural development should, in particular, contribute to achieving the following objectives: (a) improving the competitiveness of agriculture and forestry by supporting restructuring, development and innovation; (b) improving the environment and the countryside by supporting land management; and (c) improving the quality of life in rural areas and encouraging diversification of economic activity.
In the context of Regulation 1698/2005 [last amended by Regulation 1312/2011], the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, should adopt strategic guidelines aiming at reinforcing the content of rural development policy in line with the Union’s priorities. On the basis of the strategic guidelines, each Member State should prepare its rural development national strategy plan constituting the reference framework for the preparation of the rural development programmes, whose duration should be of seven years. The programming of rural development should comply with European and national priorities and complement the other common policies, in particular the agricultural market policy, cohesion policy and common fisheries policy. In accordance with their respective responsibilities, the Commission and the Member States must ensure the coordination between the assistance from the different Funds, i.e. the ERDF, the ESF, the Cohesion Fund [see section 12.3], the European Fisheries Fund [see section 22.4], and the interventions of the European Investment Bank (EIB), and of other EU financial instruments.
EAFRD assistance is implemented through close consultations (partnership) between the Commission and the Member State and with the authorities and bodies designated by the Member State under national rules and practices. Each Member State must submit a national strategy plan indicating the priorities of the action of the EAFRD and of the Member State concerned taking into account the European strategic guidelines, their specific objectives, the contribution from the EAFRD and the other financial resources. A Council Decision laid down the amount of Union support to rural development for the period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2013 (EUR 69.75 billion), its annual breakdown and the minimum amount to be concentrated in regions eligible under the convergence objective (EUR 29.70 billion) [Decision 2006/493].