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DG XVI, TERRA Second Annual Meeting,

Pori, Finland, 27,28, 29/6/99

The lower edge of regions: Problems and Prospects.

Elias Gianniris, LORE Technical Manager

Introduction

The deterioration of the social cohesion in the areas of Objective 1 means, to my view, deterioration of regional planning, increase of problems of ecological-environmental nature, developmental inequalities.

When LORE started, there had already been serious local procedures. In Ikaria there had been a development conference (1995, published 1997). The basic development issues have been monitored clearly. The LORE Project gives to the 5 Partner Regions the opportunity to meet, without dependencies, and autonomously, basic development needs; to observe and to set up a method for sustainable orientation. LORE also gave the opportunity for an extensive exchange of views with other areas and other TERRA projects.

As it concerns Planning, there is adequacy. With this note I will try to monitor the issues and the prospects for Development. I will present here, as a mid-term report, the case of Ikaria concerning Planning and Development.

Planning and the Results: Few examples from Ikaria

  1. Ikaria has excellent wind power. We have stressed this to the local authorities and focused to the fact that they should face the mountain of Ikaria as a query of great value. Through LORE we have proposed an overall energy exploitation based on alternative energy. The Study for this is nearly at the end. RESULT: In one of the four municipalities the municipal council has already rented land to 2 private interests, for very low prices. The LORE study personnel was not invited to the municipal council. Also, private interests have filed proposals to the other municipalities of the island.
  2. In Ikaria there has been constructed a Dam since 1995. Today, not even the necessary studies for its exploitation are complete. The situation is similar with that of the St Philippo Dam in the Partner Ragusa. We have proposed the foundation of one energy company for the whole of the province of Ikaria, in order to examine in a comprehensive way the water energy potencial, the wind energy potencial, the geothermal potencial. RESULT: The Municipality which has the dam in its environs, was motivated by a private company to form a separate company for the exploitation of the Dam.
  3. In Ikaria there has been considerable effort in identifying the cultural routes of the past and particularly the ancient pathways. The aim is to use them as backbones for alternative forms of tourism (ecological tourism, agrotourism, etc). The LORE studies on pathways and ecotourism are on a final stage. RESULT: Although the local society has broadly accepted the ecotourism potencial, various private interests are opening new roads destructing the ancient pathways.
  4. One of the major problems of Ikaria is overgrazing. Most of the overgrazed areas are in the territory of NATURA 2000. The problem has become a major public issue because the herders gain money from subsidies given by the E.U. for the animals (per capita subsidy). We have included through LORE a pilot study in order to increase the carrying capacity of the grazing area. However in the same area an investment project of the Regulation 2078/92 has started which acerbated the local tensions. RESULT: We had to select another area for the LORE pilot application, in order to preserve the educational character of the pilot project.

Irrationality in practice

There are several other examples which can bee brought to attention. The fast is that the local society is listening the rationality calls and readjusts accordingly. Why rationality is not dominant? Is this fact connected with the decline of social cohesion?

It would have been a mistake to draw the blame to the local society, although there is also a share there. There seem to be endogenous weaknesses in adjusting to contemporary reality, not only in Ikaria, but also to a group of areas which, to my opinion, are the weak part of Europe, the areas which are in the bottom of the regions of Objective 1. Ikaria is the poorest island of the second poorest region of Europe (N. Aegean). In the LORE European Seminar in E. Pelion (March 1999) I have presented some points, which were the following:

The regional inequalities of Europe increase The edge of Europe, the hinterland, the areas which are under a development shadow, the 4th world of the Big Cities, all these know well that their situation is related to the polarised development and the economic models of accumulation. All these have no political weight. As time goes by they lose in dignity, pride, and they feel as is defined by the official documents: Been Territory, Isolated, remote, marginal, and finally inferior.

In these regions (and in these social groups) we must identify the operation of a vicious cycle, that of misery. There is a deterioration of social values, an increase of localisms and territorial conflicts, a jeopardy of election criteria, a deterioration of representativity, an even greater production of misery. In other words, this Misery Cycle relates to the recess of social and political emancipation of the regions, the social groups, citizens. In the same mode, there is a deterioration of the relation between society and environment.

What policies?

Such regions are the most needed of special policies and drastic measures, particularly the insular regions. They need exactly what they do not have:

Such measures and policies may go beyond the principal European Policies. Maybe, there are needed fundings of 100% for certain activities and investments. Maybe there must be public support, over the barrier of the free competition.

Who is to take care of these issues and of these regions? Will these regions be called to compete with unequal terms in the 3d Community Framework?

There must be a design of special policies for the regions of Objective 1 which are in the bottom.

LORE has two important components:

  1. The initiation of a process of self-understanding and
  2. b) The local benefits steaming from the Regional Observatories. Certain processes, which now reside in the regional unconsiousness, may be helped to rise to the level of social consiousness.

Is this enough?

To my opinion, no. Overgrazing, forest fires, erosion, destruction of cultural heritage will continue. They will also continue to be transformed to taboo issues for the local societies. Even if these bottom regions were given equal opportunities in applying for E.U. Projects, they couldnt make it.

Drastic national and E.U. Policies are needed, as described above, which will in fact support the local societies of these areas. The goal of these policies must be that of strengthening social cohesion, of transforming to modern certain traditional professions which are related to the land, and of promoting holistic managerial and administrative rules for autonomous geographical systems, as is the case with an island.

The lost local dynamism of adaptation, must be restructured. A local dynamism which was lost because of a polarised model of development during the last 40-50 years.

Local Development and universalism

The systems of a polarised development become regional, international and global. These systems are of the present structures of hierarchy and power. In such a globalisation, the lower end of the regions will continue to see the inequality in opportunities to grow, to have adaptation difficulties. Certain positive policies are doomed to fail. Maybe we will reach at a point where the money given ineffectively to such regions (seminars, incentives, subsidies, unemployment programs, etc) with match the money needed for clever or direct politics, for clever direct techniques well adapted to local contexts and (why not?) direct and selective funding.

To avoid such an ineffectiveness, all parties (locals, Regions, National level, E.U.) must define a new mode of living together, a development moratorium concerning the edge of regional development.

With LORE we felt a dynamism, the increase of the political weight of our regions, the support of the objective and long term as opposed to the temporary and subjective. Policies are needed to continue along these lines without excluding the bottom group of the European Regions.