From 13 to 15 December 2017, an international conference on Entrepreneurship and Development in Western Greece was held in Patras, the regional capital. Prokopios Pavlopoulos, the President of Greece, officially opened the conference, stressing the need for strengthening alliances in Europe and highlighting the importance of cohesion. Markku Markkula, first Vice-President of the CoR, praised the strong partnership spirit of Western Greece's strategy in support of entrepreneurship that helped the region win the EER label and improve the business environment.
The region of Western Greece was awarded the title of European Entrepreneurial Region 2017
, alongside Extremadura (Spain) and the region of Lower Austria. The EER initiative
identifies and annually rewards up to three EU regions or cities which present an outstanding, forward-thinking and innovative entrepreneurial and SME policy strategy.
The CoR's first Vice-President Markku Markkula, who delivered an opening speech, acknowledged the difficult situation the region has been in due to the financial and economic crisis and encouraged it to benefit from the award in the future: "There are 24 EER cities and regions, as diverse as Europe itself, and this community offers a broad platform for exchanging good practices and other ways of cooperation. I would like to encourage Western Greece to continue to take advantage of this great opportunity."
According to Apostolos Katsifaras, Governor of the region, the success was strongly supported by the Alliance for Entrepreneurship and Development in Western Greece, an informal partnership of nowadays 32 stakeholders from the region. The alliance aims to boost the entrepreneurship in the region through the joined implementation of concrete measures to support small and medium sized businesses. Those included the establishment of an SME support office, the provision of information about the COSME, Horizon 2020 and LIFE programmes and ESIFs, the setting up of a microcredit fund or the organisation of seminars and trainings, among others.
The 3-day international conference was also attended by representatives of other EER regions, including Northern Ireland (EER 2015), Helsinki-Uusimaa (EER 2012), Extremadura (EER 2017) and Central Macedonia (EER 2018), providing opportunities for interregional experience exchange and cooperation.
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