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Reviews for Sustainable Eco-Regions via Europe (PRESERVE)
Start date: Oct 31, 2008, End date: Oct 30, 2011 PROJECT  FINISHED 

In order to become "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, the European Union relies on the harmonious and sustainable development of its Member States, but also of their Regions. Being particularly close to the citizens, and best aware of their strengths and needs, Regions are indeed key actors in the overall EU strategy for more growth and better jobs. In addition to promoting eco-innovation, or supporting renewable energy sources and greater energy efficiency, Regions use the preservation and sustainable promotion of their landscape and cultural heritage as an important tool to support the diversification of their economies and the reconciliation of economic development with environmental interests. The sound development of these sectors can indeed improve the quality of life of the local population, creating high quality jobs, facilities and services. However, many examples show that badly planned branding of landscape and cultural heritageassets can be a threat to the beauty and diversity of the European territory, rather than a vehicle for economic growth, job creation or innovation. In other words, Regions must be careful when developing their cultural heritage strategies, thinking in sustainable terms and adopting holistic approaches to managing these policies. The aim of PRESERVE is to improve the effectiveness of regional development policies, specifically focusing upon cultural heritage and landscape policies as endogenous factors of economic development. The PRESERVE concept developed as a logical progression of an exchange on a core regional development issue: 14 regional and local representatives from 11 different countries - representing old and new member states and a wide EU-geographical coverage - gathered and discussed the difficulties they faced when implementing cultural heritage and landscape policies, and decided to join forces with the AER in this project.Using common evaluation methodologies, the exchange of best practice, and audits from other regional experts (Peer Reviews), the regional policymakers will be able to develop a work plan which will enable them to apply the recommendations and improve their cultural heritage and landscape policies.The project places a strong emphasis on the dissemination of results to other regions: the aim is to include the PRESERVE partner regions and new regions in a follow-up project aimed at defining paths of sustainable eco-Regions in Europe, thereby contributing to the promotion of lesser-known areas. As a pre-condition to their participation, Regions will be asked to apply the tool developed through PRESERVE, thus ensuring that the project has a spill-over effect and that regional best practices are widely disseminated, benefiting Europes diversity and sustainable development. Achievements: PRESERVE partners have set out to integrate sustainability in regional tourism policies. As a first step, the 14 partners defined a common methodology, based on the peer review approach and developed a series of instruments collected in an integrated toolkit. A peer review consists of a one-week study tour where the review team holds meetings with key stakeholders and policy makers in order to ascertain the strength, weaknesses and potential of the host region's tourism policies. After the visit, the review team prepares a report with a series of recommendations on how to improve the region's policies, to integrate sustainability. The toolkit, designed to implement the peer review, includes detailed criteria allow the peers to define and grasp the concept of sustainability and apply it to the host region; the three aspects of sustainability are considered including economic competitiveness, social coherence and environmental management of the tourism policies. Other instruments developed will support the partners in the on-sight implementation, including an evaluation grid to measure the application of each criterion, as well as templates for drafting their report and recommendations. In their third period of project activities, partners have come a long way to reaching their final goals. The first peer review took place in Banska Bystrica in Slovakia, in October with a comprehensive programme of interviews and site visits. Partners from Carinthia (AR), Tuscany (IT) and South Denmark (DK) travelled to Banska Bystrica to explored the potential of rural and spa tourism in this region. As expected, the experience proved to be a good opportunity for partners to discover and collect good practices, both from hosts and peers. When travelling to their peers, partners also get an opportunity to share their own practices and thus highlight important experience from their home regions. The peer review also proved to be very efficient to test the methodology and continue its fine-tuning. Styria, lead partner of the exchange of experience component, adapted the toolkit and developed a good practice template, which will be used to collect all practices discovered during the peer reviews as well as those put forward by other partners. These will be made available electronically in a catalogue before the actual publication of the final handbook.. Although no common dissemination event was planned for the consortium as a whole since the launch conference in February in Brussels, partners have managed to disseminate their newly achieved know-how in their own regions and to local stakeholders, reaching approximately 1200 people, thus ensuring the ripple effect to entities beyond the partnership. Other efforts were made to disseminate where individual partners have published press releases to highlight some of their activities, including Banska Bystrica during their peer review. The upcoming conference in Alba also appeared in two main publications, REGIONS Magazine and BITS letter, to ensure wide dissemination. Partners participated in a number of other events, including the Open Days in Brussels from 5-9 October, but also international fairs and tourism conferences where PRESERVE was presented and promotional material made available. The website statistics show a slow but constant increase in the number of visitors ranging from 8.000 to 10.000 per month.
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