Resources on rural development
in France



I. The administrative division of space in France

II. An outline of rural development policies and their implementation

III. Access to resources on rural development in France

I. The administrative division of space in France:

    Political institutions in France:

  • The executive branch

    France is a secular republic, indivisible and democratic headed by its President elected by direct universal suffrage for a 5 year term. The President appoints a Prime Minister who then forms the government.
    The Prime Minister is responsible for determining national policy, while the President is in charge more particularly of international affairs, appoints high dignitaries and civil servants and has the power to dissolve the National Assembly.
  • The legislative branch: made up of two parliamentary chambers

- The National Assembly, whose members are elected by direct universal suffrage, proposes and passes laws and can overturn the government.
- The Senate, whose senators are elected by indirect universal suffrage, proposes and passes laws and its president is the second in command after the President of the Republic.

  • The Constitutional Council:
The Constitutional Council is composed of 9 members appointed for 9 years (3 are appointed by the President of the Republic, 3 by the President of the National Assembly and 3 by the President of the Senate). It ensures that bills are constitutional. It oversees the legality of elections and is consulted in extreme matters of importance.
The administrative division of space

The national territory is divided into:
- 22 regions in metropolitan France and 4 overseas
- 96 departments in metropolitan France and 4 overseas
- 3,995 cantons
- 36,560 districts including 194 outside of metropolitan France

Consult the map of regions and departments in France

Territorial administration:

A state representative is appointed in each of the administrative divisions:
- In each region: a prefect of the region, whose office and staff members are located in the prefecture of the region,
- In each department: a prefect is housed in the prefecture,
In addition, the mayor, who is elected in each municipality, also represents the State.

Territorial communities:

The French Republic was first created with an extremely centralised system. However, since the early 1980’s we have witnessed a vast movement of decentralisation which has considerably contributed to the prerogatives of territorial communities. (See appropriate heading)

Citizens elect their own representatives in each constituency by direct universal suffrage:

- Region: regional council members elected in each department make up the Regional Council and subsequently elect the President of the Regional Council who represents the executive branch.

- Department: the General Council members are elected in each canton and make up the General Council. They subsequently elect the President of the General Council, the executive branch.

- District: Municipal council members are elected in each district and then elect the Mayor who is at the head of the Municipal Council and manages local affairs.
All of these elected representatives serve a 6-year term.

II. An outline of rural development policies and their implementation


The structure of rural development in France is strongly influenced by EU subsidies and its support structure, particularly the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and regional policies or Structural Funds:

  • The first pillar of the CAP, which includes support measures, contributes to maintaining agricultural activities and thus to the very economic fabric of rural areas.
  • The second pillar of the CAP, which defines the broad directions of rural development through Rural Development Regulation (RDR), serves as a structure for development policies of member states.
  • Regional policies, whose objective is to ensure developmental cohesion and territorial harmonisation including rural territories. This support takes the form of financial backing of Community Initiative Programmes (CIP). These programmes make it possible to back community initiatives which are of particular interest to the EU, either because of their focus or their targeted field of intervention. It especially concerns Leader+ programmes which support actions and innovative partnerships in rural areas.

The description of support mechanisms for rural development, as they are presented here, has been taken from existing programmes between 2000-2006. (2000 Calendar)
Certain elements programmed for 2007-2013 have already been included (implemented by the FEADER). Updates will be made progressively as soon as the texts for implementing new measures have been released.

You can consult the global diagram if you wish to view the global organizational outline of structures related to rural development.

This diagram illustrates the tie between European support policy (CAP and regional policy) and national and regional policies implemented in France.
The application of these policies must comply with the 22 measures described in the Rural Development Regulation (RDR) and/or the objectives defined by regional policies (objectives 1, 2, 3) and Community Initiative Programmes.

France has set up an original system which integrates rural development policy into regional policies through two instruments:

  • The National Rural Development Plan (NRDP) financed by the EAGGF-Guarantee section
  • Regional programmes which have a more territorial approach and which are based on Single Programming Documents (SPDs) for eligible areas having structural difficulties as defined by Objective 2

Through this complex system, France has aimed at four objectives:
- Guaranteeing a national structure for implementing certain plans
- Bringing together all individual agricultural actions on a NRDP level
- Maintaining a partnership with local municipalities by combining regional programmes and State-Regional plan contracts.
- Concentrating financial resources on rural areas in difficulty

The application of this system is then taken over by delocalized state departments and local districts in compliance with EU regulations to co-finance actions.

National policies of rural development are therefore greatly influenced by the EU.

They also reserve a very important place for territorial aspects of development and the participation of local actors which date back to the structures set up during the period of decentralization in the early 80’s.
Since this period, local districts have become more and more competent (see details of territories heading) and inter-territorial cooperation and structures representing both local municipalities and civil society actors have increased over the years. (For more details see corresponding headings)

Changes from 2007 – 2013

See the Global outline of rural development policies in France 2007 – 2013

The structure and the main guidelines for the rural development policy in France are always governed by the guidelines of the EU at the second pillar of the PAC and the regional policy.
This new program stands in the context of the growth to 25 and then to 27 Member States which changed the economic and social context of the Union and called for new community guidelines and policies.
With the inclusion of these new countries, the rural zones henceforth stand for 90% of the Union territory and therefore call for a strengthening of the rural development policy as a general priority of the EU. Moreover, the regional disparities between old and new Member States called for a greater efficiency in both in the management of funds and the simplification of procedures.

Changes at the level of the rural development policy (2nd pillar of the PAC)

The main principles of this new program have been defined at the European Council at Lisbon (March 2000) and the Goeterborg Summit (June 2001).

The new EU policy in rural development focuses around 4 axes:

  • To strengthen the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sector
  • To improve the environment and the rural spaces through support to the management of lands
  • To improve the quality of life
  • To promote the leader ascendant approach +

    On the basis of these general objectives, a new rural development rule (CE n°1698/2005) was devised detailing measures favorable to European co-financing and a single financing framework established with a specific fund allotted to FEADER (European Agricultural Development Fund for Rural Development). Each Member State then devises a National Strategic Plan for Rural Development (PSDR) which, in conjunction with the common strategic guidelines of the UE, that is an economy based on knowledge and innovation and in tune with the principles of lasting development PSNDR transposes these guidelines at national level.

France sets three objectives to its strategy:

  • Economic: for competitiveness and employment in all sectors;
  • Human: a development for and with the local people and actors;
  • Environmental and territorial: for a lasting management of the rural patrimony which encompasses the specifities of the territories;

For further information, see the PSN of France.

Once this strategic framework is established, the Member State determines, according to the measures approved in RDR, the implementation measures of its policy through a Rural Development Program. The Member State may choose this program at national level or set up regional programs in specific territories.

France chose this second option by setting up 6 rural development programs:

  • An Hexagonal Rural Development Program for the metropolitan area apart from Corsica. It has a regional level adapted to local priorities and is taken by territorial communities and a national platform involved in measures common to the hexagon as a whole such as compensation for natural handicaps, settling young farmers, forests, etc.
    (make a link with pdf)
  • Regional Rural Development Programs (PDRR)
    - one for Corsica
    - a specific program for each overseas department (Reunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guyana).
    PDR details the various distribution modes of helping measures (nature, public target… etc)
    PDR is presently in a consultation phase.

Rural network

The new RDR also foresees the setting up in each Member State of a national rural network that seeks to regroup organizations and administrations involved in rural development (cf. art 69 of RDR)

4 minimum targets have been determined:

  • To inventory and analyze sound transferable practices,
  • To organize and exchange experience and know-how,
  • To set up training program for GAL about to beset,
  • To ensure technical assistance for inter-territorial and transnational.

This network is then promoted to a European level to support the activities of national networks and develop transnational cooperation (art 67).
The rural network in France is in the process of being set up, priorities have been spelled out at the PSN: integrated approach to the stakes of rural development, improvement of the engineering aspect of the project, suitability between the FEADER and territory projects… etc
The final aspect of the network will be decided upon at a national cell which will rule on the activities, at the PDRH national base and at regional level thus enabling to adapt the activities carried out to the priorities defined in the 5 regional programs.


Changes at regional policy level

This implementation of the regional policy follows the same pattern as that of rural development. The EU has defined the strategic guidelines:

  • To encourage innovation and enterprising achievement spirit
  • To nurture an enterprising spirit
  • To create employment better qualified and more numerous.

These guidelines are set up in a framework document at the level of each Member State entitled "Cadre de reference stratégique national" (National Strategic Reference Framework). States also submit operational programs (OP) which determine the State's priorities (and/or of regions) and the manner in which the latter will carry its program.
In these new programs, objectives 1, 2 and 3, as defined in 2000-2006 programs disappear as well as the Community Initiative Programs (Interregional Equal, Leader and Urban).

For 2007-2013, the EU defines three 3 new objectives:

  • "Convergence" which reiterates the priorities of objective 1 to improve growth condition and accelerate the convergence of less developed States and regions (PIB/inhabitant < to 75% of the community average. In France, only the overseas departments are concerned.
  • "Regional competitiveness and employment" correspond to the old objectives 2 and 3 and to the PIC. It aims at enhancing attractiveness and employment in regions, the focus is on innovation and training. This objective is of concern to all Member States and to the overall French territory, some regions such as Corsica will benefit from additional help to compensate for its being outside the framework of the convergence objective due to the "statistic effect".
  • "European territorial cooperation". This objective corresponds to the old INTERREG program and operates at three levels: cross-border cooperation through joint local and regional initiatives, transnational cooperation in strategic priorities (research, information, environment, etc.) as well as interregional cooperation and exchange of information.

At financing structure level, the procedure has been simplified. As of 2007, only three funds will ensure the functioning of the regional policy: FSE, FEDER and the Cohesion Fund.
The Budget allocated to the cohesion policy for the period 2007-2013 amounts to 347 billion Euros of Europe’s total budget.
The budget allocated to France amounts to 14.3 billion Euros.
For further information see the budget allocated to France.

France has submitted its CRSN to the commission in November 2006.
See CRSN of France

III. Access to resources on rural development in France