4 mins

The macroregional strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region: a common vision, a shared mission

Mathilde Konstantopoulou

Following the end of the Sixth Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), which was held virtually under the auspices of the Slovenian Presidency of the EUSAIR, a new era has emerged. EUSAIR, which brings together four EU member states (Croatia, Greece, Italy and Slovenia) and five aspiring countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia), is at a crossroad in terms of its decisions and actions. The strategy, at this year' s forum with the adoption of the Izola Declaration, has also welcomed a 10th member, namely San Marino.

The European Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy, Elisa Ferreira, in her opening message at the Sixth EUSAIR Forum, said that if we want to go somewhere fast we go alone, but if we want to go far we move forward to get her. EUSAIR is attractive and challenging, and new Member States and neighbouring countries wish to join the strategy. It covers a sea basin and hinterland area presenting geographical specificities and territorial diversities and offers potential for innovative ideas and projects to flourish in the region. Yet two questions remain: what can we offer to the EUSAIR strategy and what does the strategy offer us?

To begin with, the lack of funding for the strategy (one of the three NOs principles that have been predominant in the macroregional strategies' rationale since their foundation) has delayed implementation and created scepticism among key implementers and potential stakeholders. The top-down design of the strategy led to increasing difficulties at governance level, as the bottom-up approach was missing, and implementers at local, regional and even national levels were invited to think out of the box, plan in a different territorial dimension (the macroregional one), adopt new practices, cooperate in a wider sense and deal with innovative proposals. They were summoned to promote strengths that they did not know existed in their territory; were asked to combat the weaknesses and emerge with a macroregional aspect of implementing projects; encountered challenges that they could not understand or deal with in a comprehensive, integrated way; and faced threats that they had to eliminate to enhance the territorial potential of their region.

Today, 7 years after the official commencement of the strategy's implementation and at the dawn of the new programming period, 2021-27, EUSAIR is mature, robust and concise. Having recovered from its initial setbacks, EUSAIR can design and implement projects, attract newcomers, create a brand name for the Adriatic' Ionian region and establish its presence in the wider region united by the shared sea.

"the strategy, apart from its cohesion role, plays a crucial part in fostering the EU enlargement and enabling the partner countries 'accession to the EU"

EUSAIR has a characteristic that is unique and challenging: partner countries of the strategy are candidate and potential candidate countries of the Western Balkans. Thus, the strategy, apart from its cohesion role, plays a crucial part in fostering the EU enlargement and enabling the partner countries' accession to the EU. Alignment of administrative procedures, capacity building, knowledge transfer, know-how, aid to institutional reforms and legislative framework adaptation comprise the steps gradually taken and the reforms required for the Western Balkans' European perspective.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has affected the region and the strategy in various ways, with diverse repercussions. Meeting people in the region, exchanging ideas, getting together to prepare common activities, finding ways to pull together resources for the strategy, including more stakeholders in its implementation and increasing the visibility of the strategy were seriously hindered by the borders being closed as a result of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the post-COVID-19 era addresses a more resilient, competitive, successful Adriatic' Ionian region. We managed to turn weaknesses into strengths and disadvantages into advantages while finding innovative ways to interact, empowering stakeholders at all levels of governance, profiting from the technological tools at our disposal and, most of all, renewing our commitments to the strategy and its partners.

In addition, we are exiting the humanitarian and health crisis at a decisive standpoint : we are currently preparing the operational programmes and the partnership agreements for 2021-27 at national level, and it is the right moment to include the priorities of EUSAIR in our sectoral, regional and cooperation programmes. This concerns the' embedding process?, which was initiated with the Catania declaration and has recently reached its final formulation. The EUSAIR governance structures haverecognisedand decided on' emblematic priorities' of the strategy that need to be incorporated into the programming documentation of the new period, paving the way for the elaboration and future implementation of projects of macroregional added value and impact in the region. Taking this initiative a step further,' flagship act ions' w ere identified for each pillar of the stategy (blue growth, transport and energy, environmental protection and sustainable tourism), and operational programmes are invited to include under their priority axes, within specific objectives and activities, references of identified projects that will be eligible for funding within the new programming period. The above constitute the chain of activities for the' embedding process', which will increase substantially the operational ownership of the EUSAIR, along with the political ownership of the strategy that was already elaborated, granting our strategy the visibility, recognition and operability for its future activities.

To conclude, in the upcoming period of the European Green Deal and the digital transition of the EU space, EUSAIR can and will succeed in its goals and objectives by concentrating on the' embedding process', improving the effective operation of the EUSAIR governance structures (national coordinators, pillar coordinators and Facility Point project partners) and by revising its action plan, making room for the EUSAIR enlargement, for innovative approaches to project ideas and projects and for elaborating the vision and mission of EUSAIR that have made it so attractive, challenging and promising.

Mathilde Konstantopoulou is Deputy National Coordinator for the European Structural and Investment Funds Project Coordinator at EUSAIR Facility Point, Greece.

This article appears in Rural areas: an eye to the future

Go to Page View
This article appears in...
Rural areas: an eye to the future
Go to Page View
Wiktor Szydarowski, ESPON EGTC
The way into the future
The semester of the Portuguese Presidency of the
Now is the time for territorial, smart and ambitious investments!
Elisa Ferreira Europe's response to the crisis is
Thematic dossier
A Long Term Vision for Rural Areas to turn changes into opportunities
A new pathway is emerging for the prosperous future of rural areas
Fatima Bacharel Andreea China Rural areas:
The EU cohesion policy needs a universal basic income
Nowadays, the environment is a priority in the
Rural areas are entitled to the EU's cohesion and crisis response
Rural areas not only represent the smallest building
The future of Europe will depend on how we deal with rural areas
Peter Schmidt Stefano Palmieri The EU enjoys incredible
CAP reform and a Green Deal: an unmissable opportunity to promote agroecological practices
Guillaume Cros The Occitanie region is
How to harness the potential of rural areas to m ake them suitable places for innovation opportunities?
' Eugenio Giani In her speech during
Which future do you want for rural areas?
Marion Eckardt Last year, the European LEADER
Taking action to spur growth in French rural areas: the rural agenda
Marie-Lorraine Dangeard The Territorial Agenda 2030 provides
Reinventing Scandinavian Mountains
Jan Edøy Erik Hagen Em pirical
Landscape transformation programme: An institutional innovation model
Miguel Freitas The new European forest strategy
Rural networking to build a Long Term Vision for Rural Areas
Enrique Nieto In early 2020, the President of
The pandemic may help us re-discover places that were left behind
João Ferrão is a research professor at the
Cit izens and territories should feel the im pact of NextGenerationEU funds
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, Local
The macroregional strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region: a common vision, a shared mission
Mathilde Konstantopoulou Following the end of the
Why we need new evidence to better address the social consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic
Nicolas Rossignol ESPON' s first attempt to
Older people’s interests in policymaking: a lesson from COVID-19?
Piera Petruzzi Member State governments have begun to
Development challenges for lake areas in the EU
Károly Fekete Éva Geletáné Varga
Leaping from a primary to a quaternary sector in a rural EU border area
Sandra Spule What are employment options for
Measuring the climate impact of spatial planning
Pauline Riordan Because of its broad reach,
Functional areas as emerging geographies: how to define and measure them
' Zintis Hermansons The understanding of different functional
Eco-clust er s as governance tools
Jacopo Riccardi Thijs Fikken Europe's urban-maritime
European Year of Rail 2021. Connecting places and people
Valeria Fedeli The year 2021 is the
Measuring digitalisation in regions and cities, matching the targets of the 2030 Digital Com pass
Anke Schuster Marek Bobiš The COVID-19 pandemic has
Driving and scaling-up innovation in cross-border digital healthcare from the demand side
Martin Gauk Angela Emidio The ESPON
Communicating Cohesion Policy on Planet Pandemia One year on
Image: Claudio Nichele Agnès Monfret Claudio Nichele Like
Communication in time of pandemics - INTERACT experience
Kevin Fulcher When COVID-19 arrived in Europe,
Interreg Europe communication during the COVID-19 pandemic
Petra Polaskova The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically
How to hold an international event when everybody is stuck in their homes?
Jenny Koutsomarkou Imagine the impact of the pandemic
Upcoming ESPON events Transnational Outreach
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, all events will
Territorial resilience: meaning and main implications for spatial planning
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across regions
Setting up the ESPON 2030 Program m e: heading towards the finish line
The last few months have been particularly intensive
Policy Brief on rural areas: More than just a publication
Fatima Bacharel Andreea China Since the
Outlook of the Slovenian presidency
Blanka Bartol TomaẐ Miklav Ḉ iḈ In
Looking for back issues?
Browse the Archive >

Previous Article Next Article
Rural areas: an eye to the future
Page 44