NEWS

Benefits to northern economy

As work on the Egnatia Highway progresses, the geoeconomic landscape of the border region is changing, ridding it of the isolation that has plagued entire geographic areas since the modern Greek State was founded, chiefly due to a lack of sufficient access infrastructure. The Egnatia Highway and its access routes are allowing a whole new world to emerge, one that has until recently been relatively unknown. Epirus, Western Macedonia and Thrace, Greece’s poorest regions, are opening up their incredible natural beauty to the world and preparing to taste the fruits of development. Rare biotopes, such as the Prespa Lakes, Valia Calda and the Nestos River are now accessible; green mountain ranges, such as Grammos, Smolikas, Vitsi and Rhodope, are now certain to attract greater interest from investors in tourism development, not to mention the precious metal deposits discovered during geological exploration that have gone as yet untapped. The Egnatia Highway has brought a number of major changes to economic and social life in the mountains of Western Macedonia and Epirus. In Thrace, where the road has already been open for a while, the results have been spectacular. People and goods are moving rapidly, towns and villages once on the margins of socioeconomic life are acquiring links to major urban centers and access to ports such as Thessaloniki, Igoumenitsa and Kavala. There are also effects on the economies of areas in neighboring countries. Prospects for development in the plains of Korce, Monastir, Gevgeli and Velles, and the region around Gjirokaster in Albania, in southern Bulgaria and even Kosovo will be linked to Greece with everything that entails for the general betterment of the region. Planning is needed for the appropriate development strategy in order to exploit its wealth for the benefit of the people but also to protect the region. Already a number of opportunists have been buying up land at what are as yet rock-bottom prices, particularly where the highway is linked with urban centers and where the first housing monstrosities can be expected to make their appearance any day now. Action is needed to establish a sound basis for development if mistakes are to be avoided.