46th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Enlargement, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean", August 30th - September 3rd, 2006, Volos, Greece
Giannena, one of the largest cities in Northwest Greece, is the capital of Ioannina Prefecture and Epirus Region. The location of the city next to Albanian borders and the historical links with the society of South Albania had as a result the transformation of the urban functions during the last 15 years. In Ottoman era Giannena city used to be the social, economic, administrative and cultural center of Southwestern Balkans. Despite the ethnological and linguistic variety of the communities that lived in the area, people shared a common way of life. In 1913 this geographical area was divided in two parts: Epirus -including Giannena, that joined the Greek state, and South Albania, that became a part of the newly founded Albanian state. The network of the social and economic relations of the past was hurt seriously. The relations between the Greek and the Albanian society stopped completely after the Second World War, when communism established in Albania and borders closed. The social and economic periphery of Giannena city was minimized. In 1990 the Albanian political system changed and the borders of the country opened. Giannena city became again the center of a transnational area and historical links between the two societies were regenerated. Exchange between Greece and Albania started due to uneven development. People, goods and capital moved from one side to the other, affecting the life of Giannena city, as well as the life of the zone next to the borders dramatically. This paper is based on a research that took place in 2005 in the frame of my thesis (MSc Urban and Regional Planning / NTUA) and focuses on the transformation of life at Giannena city after the opening of the borders. The following sectors of urban life are examined: population, commerce, investments, constructions, real estate, transportation and bank system. In addition, the paper addresses the initiatives and the activities of municipal authorities, NGOs, educational and cultural organizations with regards to the new geopolitical environment in the area. The main intention of this paper is to explore the current modes of cross-border cooperation and their effects on space.