In Central Greece, the pilot activities revolved around the evaluation of the Measure 41 of the local Leader Program 2007-2013, entitled “Initiative for sustainable and sustainable development of the Fthiotian countryside”. The measure was assessed in terms of effectiveness, relevance, and coherence, by using questionnaires and conducting interviews with the people involved. The results indicated that the implementation of the measure is considered to be generally successful to a moderate and great extent. However, the responses revealed a lack of information regarding the bio-economy activities and EU policies, stressing the fact that significant learning and capacity-building activities are required to ensure the potential of measures utilised by LEADER. According to the respondents, some of the obstacles that were identified and caused delays in the measures’ implementation were the complexity of bureaucratic procedures, multiplicity of laws, political instability, and the adverse effects of the long economic crisis during the 2010-2013 period. Furthermore, the need for additional measures was highlighted (measures that will target the support of vulnerable groups and the attraction of new entrants to the countryside). A combination of linked policy approaches is necessary to entice newcomers to rural areas, considering that it is a long-term objective.
As part of the Foresight process, the STEEPV inventory that was developed within the project was circulated among the participants of the stakeholder panel. The changes that take place now or in the near future in the Region of Central Greece were pointed out, as well as the importance of the effect of the forces driving those changes. During February, two strategic on-line conversations were held on the “drivers of change” to analyse the social, technological, economic, environmental, political, and other factors that affect local development. For this purpose, online meetings were held with local bodies from the academic field, the business world, the local government, as well as representatives of the society from all the prefectures of the Region of Central Greece.
During the discussions, emphasis was placed upon the need to support employment opportunities, public services, transport, as well as more systematic informative actions on the region’s programs to attract people to the area. In addition, shortcomings in connectivity and the level of digital skills were reported, highlighting the need to improve network infrastructure and provide well-organized training opportunities in modern technologies. At the same time, participants acknowledged the issue of piecemeal approaches and the need for structured and linked policies that are clearly perceived by those directly involved in order for them to thrive. As mentioned during discussions, collaborative actions between agri-food production and processing units with business and tourism, will contribute to the effective promotion and diversification of local products, as well as the stimulation of business activity. Other issues raised including renewable energy sources, circular economy activities, and the financial capacity to support technology investments in smart farming, especially for small and medium-sized agri-food units.
The next step of the pilot activities will include discussions and Deep Dives on issues of significant importance such as the impact of COVID-19 in order to understand the negative effects of the pandemic, evaluate how well the region responded to the event, and the measures needed to assure recovery from the pandemic.