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Regional Innovation in Crete (Greece)

I. Geographical Location

The Region of Crete at the southernmost part of Greece and is bordered to the north by the Sea of Crete and to the south by the Libyan Sea. It has a total area of 8.335 sq. km. and covers 6.3% of the country’s total area. In its greatest East-West extension, the island measures 256 kilometres whereas the widest part of the region, in the Prefecture of Heraklion, measures 57 kilometres and the narrowest, in the Prefecture of Lassithi, 12 kilometres. Several small islands also belong to the Region of Crete, with only Gavdos in the South being inhabited.
The morphology of Crete is characterized by three basic zones: the high or mountainous zone at an altitude of 400 m. and above, the middle zone from 200 to 400 m. and the low zone, comprising areas rising from sea level to 200 m. The first two zones cover almost 3/5 of the island and comprise a continuous range of mountains from west to east, interrupted by small valleys and gorges. This range has six peaks over 2.000 m. These geographical traits have a strong bearing on settlement patterns and on the configuration of the regional road system. The main West-East axis follows the northern coast and serves 74% of the total regional population. The main North-South axis connects the north central area of Heraklion area with the Messara valley. This means that many villages in mountainous areas are at distance from main thoroughfares and some are often cut off by winter snows.
 
II. Financial
 
The per capita GDP of the Region corresponds to 68% of the average per capita GDP for the European Union in 1999 (EU Commission, Eurostat) and is ranked with the poor EU Regions. The per capita GDP of the Region of Crete has deteriorated over the past decade as it stood higher than the corresponding national average in 1994 (105.7%) according to NSSG, whereas in 2001 it represented only 95.9% of the national average. The Region produced 5.7% of the total national GDP in 1994, 5.41% in 1996, 5.2% in 2001 and 4.6% in 2005 a gradual deterioration of its position in the national economy. GDP growth for Crete as a whole during the period is largely attributable to population growth, the highest in Greece and high by European standards.
 
In 1995 21.4% of the Gross Added-Value (GAV) of Crete was produced in the primary sector, 11.2% in the secondary sector and 67.4% in the tertiary sector. The corresponding national figures were at that date 9.9% for the primary sector, 22.4% for the secondary sector and 67.7 for the tertiary sector. In 2002, the share of primary sector GAV had dramatically fallen in Crete (11%) and the secondary sector receded slightly (10.7%) while the tertiary sector leaped to 78.3%, being for the latter much higher than the national average of 70.8%. The most striking percentage decrease is for the primary sector in Crete, dropping by close to 50% over the period, far more than the national trend of minus 30% approximately.
 
As regards productivity, the Region was at exactly the national level in 1996 (72% of average EU productivity). It has presented continuous improvement over recent years (in 1993 the corresponding rate was 69%, compared to 64% in 1988).
 
III. Population
 
The population of the Region of Crete is 601.131 according to the most recent demographic census (2001) conducted by the National Statistical Service of Greece (NSSG), around 5.5% of the country’s total population of close to eleven million (10 964 020). Crete has one of the highest rates of population increase of all European Regions. From 1991 to 2001 its population increased by 11,3%, while over the two decades 1981 – 2001 it rose by 19,71%. The population density of the Region of Crete remains lower than the corresponding national level (72.1 as opposed to 84 inhabitants per square kilometer in 2001).
 
In terms of age profile, the rate of young people aged up to 39 years is higher in Crete than in the country as a whole while on the other hand the percentage of people older than 80 is higher than the national average. The population of Crete is both younger and longevity appears to be greater, possibly because of the beneficial effects of the famous Cretan regime.
   
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