Philoxenia – Reversing the depopulation of rural areas by strengthening the local economy

An exodus of talented and entrepreneurial people from many rural regions in southern Europe has made many economically fragile areas even weaker, but in five regions around the Mediterranean this trend has been tackled by an ERDF co-funded business support project.

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Georgia, in one of the typical Macedonian houses she renovated, opened her own architecture office in Thessaloniki and rebuilds old buildings in rural areas in Northern Greece. © INTERACT Georgia, in one of the typical Macedonian houses she renovated, opened her own architecture office in Thessaloniki and rebuilds old buildings in rural areas in Northern Greece. © INTERACT

" The Philoxenia programme has been successful in reversing population decline in the areas where the programme has been active. In some areas, the local population has actually increased as a result of the programme. It has also helped to strengthen and diversify the local economy and has improved the quality of life of many small villages. "

Alkis Kalliantzidis, project manager

Young people in rural areas often wish to leave their home villages to experience life in cities or abroad, and in many parts of southern Europe this trend accelerated steeply following the onset of the economic crisis and growing youth unemployment. As the population of villages and small towns decline, this leads to a diminution of services and commercial activities.

It was to tackle this phenomenon that the Philoxenia business support project was devised. Under the scheme, which is principally funded by the transnational Territorial Cooperation Programme MED ("Mediterranean"), entrepreneurs are offered a combination of grants and loans to set up businesses in five rural areas of Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Slovenia and Malta.

Wide range of beneficiaries

Over the course of the three-year project, 90 entrepreneurs received administrative, technical and financial support to set up new businesses. Examples of successfully established, and now flourishing, companies include the setting up of a language school, a company which installs photovoltaic energy systems and an architecture practice which specialises in renovating old buildings.

Of the 90 participants, 54 were women and 36 were men. The programme was inspired by the success of a French business support programme called Collectif Ville Campagne. Philoxenia means “hospitality” in Greek, and it stands for the welcoming feeling that the programme wants to give to those entrepreneurs who return to the countryside to create businesses.

By encouraging the mobility of professional and talented people, the project has contributed towards improving the quality of life in rural areas and towards fostering sustainable local economic development.


Total investment and EU funding

The “Philoxenia” project had a total budget EUR 1 965 589, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 1 567 323 through the MED European Territorial Co-operation Programme 2007-2013.


Draft date

15/11/2014

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