Here we present the speakers at the conference.
They are presented in the order in which they appear in the agenda.
Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, European Commission.
Minister for Rural Affairs, Ministry of Rural Affairs and Infrastructure, Sweden
Deputy Head of Unit, Rural areas and networks, DG Agriculture and rural development, European Commission
Hugo Almeida finalised his studies in economics in 1997 and after a first working experience in the private sector in Portugal, decided to try an international career. In 2000, during the Portuguese Presidency of the European Council becomes a trainee in the recently created Co-decision unit. In the second half of 2000 starts working in the United Nations Mission Interim in Kosovo (UNMIK) as Budget and Finance Officer where he stayed until end of 2002. In 2003 he joins the European Commission and starts working in the Budget unit of DG AGRI where he stayed for seven years and worked in different files like direct management expenditure and direct aids. In 2010 moves to the Direct aids unit where among other things is appointed as Head of the Single Payment Scheme sector. In 2013 is appointed Deputy Head of the Unit responsible for the Rural development programs of Spain and Portugal where he stayed until January 2022. Currently he is Deputy Head in the unit “Rural areas and Networks” which is responsible for the implementation of the Long-term vision for EU’s rural areas, the networking activities related with the implementation of the CAP strategic Plans, innovation and knowledge exchange as well as the horizontal coordination within DG AGRI in the area of broadband.
Director, DG Regional and Urban Policy, European Commission
Policy coordinator EU rural vision, DG Agriculture and rural development, European Commission
Alexia is an agro-economist with over 18 years of experience, first in national network coordination on animal health, then in European network coordination on rural policy analysis and project management, and since 2014 in European Commission’s department for agriculture and rural development (DG AGRI). Within the Rural areas and networks unit, she coordinates the team implementing European Commission’s long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas adopted in June 2021, including EU’s Rural action plan and the Rural Pact. Before that, until October 2021, she was responsible for programming research and innovation on rural and social dynamics, social innovation, participatory and territorial approaches in DG AGRI’s Research and innovation unit.
Deputy team leader, Rural Pact Support Office
Enrique Nieto is a Spanish rural economist currently working as Deputy Team Leader of the Rural Pact Support Office in charge of animating and implementing networking activities for the Rural Pact and contribute to the European Commission’s long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas. Enrique holds more than 10 years of experience in European rural networking and has been involved as policy analysist in FARNET, the ENRD and CAP Network leading in particular activities regarding integrated local development and smart villages. In addition, as Senior policy expert of AEIDL Länk till annan webbplats. - The European Association for Innovation in Local Development, he has participated in a number of Horizon 2020 & Europe projects such as DESIRA, MOVING or SHERPA and launched the European Local Innovation Forum. Länk till annan webbplats.
Deputy minister of regional development, Czech Republic, and member of the European Committee of the Regions
President of LEADER France and ELARD, and
member of the European Committee of the Regions
Senior Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland
The vitality of rural areas is improved through various projects strengthening collaboration and a sense of community and improving the infrastructure. In the countryside, services and their accessibility require a great deal of work, collaboration and innovations. Improved telecommunications connections provide rural entrepreneurs with better operating possibilities and make rural areas more pleasant for residents. Projects concerning leisure and cultural activities, for instance, activate young people and open up new opportunities for them. Services for the elderly and their and quality of life can also be improved through projects.
Marianne Selkäinaho is responsible for development projects under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development with a growing focus on digitalisation and innovation. Climate and environmental issues, not to mention. Smart villages as a new development tool, in addition to high-speed broadband connections, respond to many challenges and help to build rural areas to be future’s sustainable operating environments.
Director General, Ministry of Rural Affairs and Infrastructure, Sweden
Member of the European Economic and Social Committee
Member of the European Committee of the Regions
Elected in different Committee´s in SALAR since 1998.
This period in the EU Committee. (The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, SALAR, is both an employers' organisation and an organisation that represents and advocates for local government in Sweden. All of Sweden's municipalities, county councils and regions are members of SALAR.)
2022 - Chairperson for the structal founds in NMS (Värmaland, Dalarna and Gävleborg)
2018 - Chairperson for the comission of regional development in Region Dalarna
2015 - Alternate member of COR (Comittee of Regions) and full member of NAT commission (public health)
2016 - Chairperson in the CoR Interregional Group on Health and Wellbeing
2011- 2015 Member of the board AER (Assembly of European Regions)
2006-2010 Member of the EU structural funds in North Central Sweden
2007-2014 Member of the INTERREG Sweden-Norway program
Vice President of the European LEADER Association for Rural Development, ELARD
Marion Eckardt has more than 20 years’ experience working with participatory rural development in different parts of the world, and has been working with the LEADER program the last 15 years, during which she has been running different regional, national and international networks and projects.
In 2020-2022 she was the President of European LEADER Association for Rural Development, and is now vice-president. She coordinates ELARD Knowledge Exchange Platform that runs different EU projects involving LEADER networks and LAGs across Europe. She also works as Swedish national expert for the Rural Pact Support Office. She has been working as an expert supporting the implementation of the LEADER approach outside the European Union (Georgia, Moldova, China). Marion has trainer certificate in participatory leadership (Art of Hosting) and leading transformative organisations (Swedish School of Ecconomics). Marion belongs, engages and contributes to the local village and sport associations where she lives.
Senior research fellow, NordRegio
Leneisja Jungsberg, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio is specialised in the field of applied research working with national, regional, and local stakeholders to support regional development including green transition policies, local business diversification, participatory methods, community development, rural social innovation initiatives and socio-economic assessments. Leneisja completed her Ph.D. from Copenhagen University in the field of strategic planning and democratic participation in the Nordic countries. Currently she is leading methodological work package in the four-year project on creating a “Sustainable Hub to Engage into Rural Policies with Actors (SHERPA)”. The project aims to gather knowledge that contributes to the formulation of recommendations for future policies relevant to EU rural areas, by creating a science-society-policy interface which provides a hub for knowledge and policy.
Regional Minister of agriculture, water and rural development in Castilla la Mancha, Spain
2015-Present. Regional Minister of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development of Castilla-La Mancha.
2000 Official Agronomist of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
2003-2004. Attaché and Permanent Representative of Spain in the FAO and the WFP (Rome)
2004-2005. Advisor to Minister of Agriculture, Elena Espinosa.
2005-2007. Deputy Director General of Strategies for the Rural Development, of the Ministry of Agriculture.
2007-2008. Permanent Representative of Spain to the European Union Institutions, in Brussels.
2008-2011. Director General of Agriculture in the Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development of Castilla-La Mancha.
He holds the presidency of the Castilla-La Mancha Land of Vineyards Foundation and the Mediterranean Diet Foundation.
Manager of LAG Leader Nedre Dalälven, Sweden
Charlotta Heimersson is the manager of the Swedish LAG Leader Nedre Dalälven, located along the Dalälven River. In the previous program period she directed LAG Leader Norra Mälarstranden. She graduated in Human Geography from the University of Uppsala and has also long experience in agriculture and rural development. As well as being a LAG manager Charlotta is the CEO of the local development company for Nedre Dalälven, that works to promote rural development in 9 municipalities in 4 different counties. The company covers traditional rural development areas such as tourism, fishing, natural resources as well as the more specific work with Biological Mosquito Control. Nedre Dalälven is also a Biosphere Reserve designated by UNESCO.
Manager of LAG Tartu County Development Association, coordinator of Estonian Smart Villages training program, vice-chairman of Estonian Leader Union, coordinator of ELARD Knowledge Exchange Platform
Kristiina Tammets has 15 years’ experience working with LEADER program and running different regional, national and international networks and projects.
In 2016-2017 she was the President of European LEADER Association for Rural Development. She coordinates ELARD Knowledge Exchange Platform that runs different EU projects involving LEADER networks and LAGs across Europe. She also works as national expert for the Smart Village projects “Preparatory Action on Smart Rural Areas in the 21st Century” and coordinates Estonian Smart Villages training program. She has been working as an expert supporting the implementation of the LEADER approach outside the European Union (Georgia, Moldova, China). Kristiina has trainer certificate in participatory leadership and neurolinguistic programming. She belongs to the worldwide movement Ladies Circle International.
Economist/Policy Analyst, Joint Research Centre
Simone Sasso is an economist with over 15 years of work experience. He currently works at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. In the Territorial Development Unit, he focuses on regional innovation policies, smart specialisation and rural innovation. Before joining the European Commission, Simone worked as an economist at the Innovation Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington DC, and as a consultant economist at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Institute for Labour Economics (IZA) and the foundation Empower European Universities. He holds a PhD in Economics of Innovation from the United Nations University MERIT and Maastricht University, an MSc in Local Economic Development from the London School of Economics as well as a BSc and an MSc in Economics and Business from the University of Turin. His areas of expertise and research interests revolve around Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), higher education, local economic development and policies related to these areas.
Research and Policy Manager, ESPON
Andreea China is an expert in the field of regional development and spatial planning. Over the last 12 years, she has held various positions of responsibility in the private and public sectors, working closely with local, regional or national authorities from Romania or Moldova Republic, for example. Today she is working for the ESPON 2030 programme, implementing different research activities and supporting the knowledge building and sharing among interested networks and stakeholders. She is well acquainted with the situation of the rural areas, as she managed the delivery of the ESPON project analysing the challenges and policy perspectives for European shrinking rural areas and was involved in the co-creation of the Policy Brief “Territorial evidence and policy advice for the prosperous future of rural areas”, published by ESPON and the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2021.
Director General, Swedish Board of Agriculture
Director General for Rural Development, Innovation and Agrifood Training within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Spain
Ms. Isabel Bombal is Director-General for Rural Development, Innovation, and Agrifood Training within the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food. She is an agronomist with a specialization in the agrifood industry. Over the last fifteen years, she has been acting in several high-level positions in the Ministry of Agriculture (Director-General, Deputy Director, Senior Adviser, etc.) and within the European Commission (member of the EU Conciliation Body for the CAP). Her current portfolio as Director-General deals with EU-related rural development issues, irrigation systems, innovation, and digitalization of the agrifood sector and rural areas, and the empowerment of young people and women in rural areas, as well as the advisory, knowledge, and innovation systems at the national level.