Cretan Geoparks in UNESCO

«The Samaria Gorge and the wider region of the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) belong to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, while Mt. Psiloritis and the area of Sitia are considered UNESCO ‘s  geoparks,» underlined in an interview to In -On magazine  Mr. Stavros Arnaoutakis, Regional Governor of Crete.
Question. How will the agreement with UNESCO help with the promotion of the Region of Crete?
Answer. The framework agreement of the Region of Crete with the Greek National Committee for UNESCO is part of the Region’s integrated effort to promote Crete as the most diversified and multidimensional destination in the Mediterranean. Within this context, the Region of Crete implements the Integrated Spatial Investment for the UNESCO regions of Crete (Samaria-Lefka Ori, Psiloritis, Sitia) funded by the NSRF, while promoting at the same time  the files for Spinalonga and the Minoan Palace complexes  (Knossos, Festos, Malia, Zakros, Zominthos, Kydonia) in order to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The choice to cooperate with the Greek National Commission for UNESCO, which constitutes the official statutory representative of the International Organization in Greece, focuses on  strengthening  this vision strategy which we have been consistently building for a long time and which has already startrd to show tangible results. Our effort aspires to promote Crete through the strength of the UNESCO brand name, therefore enhancing the quality of cultural and naturalist tourism throughout the year and turning the interest towards the unique and authentic part of Crete, namely that of the timeless culture of the island’s regions and inland.
Question. Which are the first regions of the Region to be promoted?
Answer. Crete owns the comparative advantage of registering three of its natural sites in UNESCO projects. More particularly, the Samaria Gorge and the wider region of Lefka Ori  constitute a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve while Psiloritis and the area of Sitia are considered UNESCO ‘s  geoparks. Consequently, exploiting this criterion, we invest primarily in a comprehensive form in the development of the network of these three special places of Crete, however,  in a way that presents in total the unique characteristics of the entire inland of our island. To be exact, we highlight the mountainous character of the inland, the ever changing landscapes, the gorges, the local gastronomy and production, the authenticity and the, of course, the hospitality that characterizes the Cretan people.  Finally, through these areas, Crete is  projected with the help of UNESCO ‘s extremely powerful brand name as a unique, timeless, multi-level destination with the emphasis on the spring, autumn and winter seasons where Crete can be equally attractive for the diverse audience which we focus on as it is in the summer for our traditional visitors.

Curriculum vitae
Stavros Arnaoutakis was born in 1956 and grew up in Archanes in Herakleion, Crete. He is an Economist. From 1981 to 1991 he served as a private company executive.
In the 1990 local elections, he was elected at the age of 34 mayor of Archanes. He served as mayor of Archanes until 2004  after having being re-elected  for four consecutive periods.
As a mayor of Archanes, he started implementing a development plan, the philosophy of which was based on the close cooperation between local authorities and bodies  as well as on the effective use of the human resources of the region.
In order for this project to be implemented a catalytic element was the exploitation of the European programs to a full extent, the  cooperation of  the municipality with scientific bodies and universities and the practical use of the know-how so as to make interventions more effective.
During his practice in Archanes the municipality won:
• the 2nd Prize in the European Integrated and Sustainable Development of Exceptional Quality Competition in 2000, and
• the 1st Prize in the «Local Development with Respect to the Natural Environment and Man” Contest in 2002.
From 1991 to 2004 he was the president of the Heraklion Development Company SA. Being in this position, he administrated the implementation of many European programs, the results of which are particularly obvious both in the municipality of Archanes and also in the other regional municipalities of the prefecture of Heraklion. On his own initiative, the Developmental company of Heraklion becomes the first development company in Greece to have its own office in Brussels aiming to better claiming and to a more effective implementation of European projects. Following the  decision of the President of PASOK. GeorgeA. Papandreou  he was placed in the 4th position of the PASOK voting list for the elections to the European Parliament in 2004.
From 2004 until 2009 as a member of the European Parliament, he participated in the  Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Fisheries as well as in  the delegation for the relations with the  Republic of China.
In the parliamentary elections of 2009, he was elected MP of Heraklion on behalf of  PASOK. and was appointed Deputy Minister of Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping.
In the November 2010 elections, he was the first elected Regional Governor of Crete.
He is a member of the Board of Directors. Association of Regions of Greece.
He is a member of the Coastal Regions of Europe Network (CPMR).
He is a full member of the Committee of the Regions.

Source of publication 27th edition In-On

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