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Mobilisation around the project “Cultural and Natural Route of Etoloacarnania”.

The project “Cultural and Natural Route of Etoloacarnania” proposed by the association DIAZOMA and the Management Agency of Messolonghi Lagoon has attracted a lot of interest lately.

The program concerns the planning of a cultural itinerary in the regional unit of Etoloacarnania in Western Greece, which will be organized around the five ancient theatres of the prefecture: Makinia, Pleuronas, Oiniades, Kalydonas and Stratos. More specifically, the program aims to consolidate the scattered archaeological sites and natural sites of Etoloakarnania into a single route. The proposal provides for the creation of modern infrastructures to improve the accessibility to sites and the protection and restoration of the monuments, if necessary. It stresses the importance of links between monuments and the local population as well as the producers of local products. As part of the project, all necessary actions to make the route a branded tourism product will be conducted. High level documentation and promotion of the route to target audiences in Greece and abroad will be ensured to make it an unforgettable cultural and tourist experience for its visitors. To finance the above program and given the likeliness of a restructuring of the ROP of Western Greece (2014-2020), the extension of the integrated territorial investment of Messolonghi-Εtolikos as well as its connection with the sustainable urban development of Agrinion have been proposed.

In recent months, there has been a great deal of excitement around the program. Specifically, on July 23, 2018 a question was put to the Ministers of Culture, Economy and Tourism respectively by Syriza MPs Maria Triantafillou, George Varemenos and Panos Skouroliakos on the progress of the implementation of this proposal. In their question, the MPs stress the need for “a comprehensive and viable concept based on the cultural tradition and natural wealth of Etoloacarnania that will breathe new life into the region”. They also note that “the proposal of DIAZOMA in collaboration with the Management Agency of Messolonghi Lagoon is a coherent proposal that combines cultural heritage, alternative tourism and the agri-food sector”.

According to the response of the Deputy Minister of Economy and Development, also responsible for the NSRF, Alexis Charitsis, the implementation of the proposal “Cultural and Natural Route of Etoloacarnania is postponed to the next NSRF because the proposal “is not described in the approved version of the ROP of Western Greece and that it is impossible to extend or modify the geographic boundaries of the already approved ITI and DUD strategies”. However, the Minister added that the possibility of funding the proposal could be explored after consultation and depending on the maturity of the proposed interventions.

Lately, the Citizens Movement for Etoloacarnania named DRO (I act) has become the protagonist of these developments and dynamically supports “any substantial development proposal based on the historical, cultural and natural wealth of the prefecture”. It enthusiastically welcomed the development proposal that DIAZOMA and the Messolonghi Lagoon Management Agency put forward. More specifically, its leaders have called important meetings in recent months to promote the implementation of the route.

In order to reinforce political efforts to integrate the “Cultural and Natural Route of Etoloacarnania” into the NSRF program, its leaders recently wrote to the relevant Ministers and to the Regional Governor of Western Greece, Mr Apostolos Katsifaras, demanding, in view of the ongoing restructuring of the CRNS, that priority be given to financing projects that will strengthen the cultural and tourism sector of the prefecture.

Since last July, members of DRO met with the mayors of Agrinion, Messolonghi and Nafpaktos and with the MPs of Etoloacarnania, George Varemenos and Marie Triantafyllou, to discuss the necessary actions for the integration of the project in the current CRNS.

In addition, a meeting was held with Mrs. Olympia Vitalou, Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Prefecture of Etoloacarnania and Lefkada in order to promote the cultural and archaeological interests of the region. Meanwhile, the members of DRO were informed by Mrs. Vitalou about the developments of the studies concerning the ancient theatres of the prefecture as well as the developments of all projects undertaken by the Ephorate.

According to the recent declaration of Apostolos Katsifaras, Regional Governor of Western Greece, “the region of Western Greece always takes into account proposals emanating from society”. The mobilization of the local population during this period, the actions of the DRO citizen movement and political interventions as well reveal a climate of unanimity in Etoloacarnania, which can make possible the implementation of this innovative development program.