The objective of the study, on the basis of problem literature, is the presentation of theoretical concepts referring to rural development and practical support programmes of these areas available in Poland and the European Union (EU). In this context, rural areas are presented as the reference area for development policies, with particular consideration for the Cohesion Policy (CP), the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), including the EU Rural Area Development Programme (RADP). Among the theoretical rural development concepts, particular attention was devoted to sustainable and balanced development forming the basis for shaping practical development programmes and identifying new theoretical approaches. The latter encompassed the smart rural areas concept, the resilience concept, local development programming, bottom-up endogenous development and the neo-endogenous concept of open development. It was concluded that the LEADER and LEADER+ neo-endogenous concept is an effective form of supporting rural area development, especially after the fifth extension of the EU with Central and Eastern European countries.