Two years of productive collaboration among key stakeholders in the Adriatic Ionian Region and paving the way for future multi-actor and multi-level cooperation in the area.

The CPMR, Coordinator of the AI-NURECC Initiative, organised its Final Conference on 4 December 2019, in Brussels, an event marking a key milestone in the implementation of this joint initiative among key stakeholders in the Adriatic-Ionian Region and paving the way for future, more enhanced cooperation. The AI-NURECC Initiative’s consortium and partners that had the opportunity to collaborate during the last two years, shared their experience and priorities and ideas for future cooperation with participants.

The AI-NURECC Initiative was congratulated by H.E. the President of the European Parliament, Mr David Maria Sassoli, who, through a letter he sent, praised AI-NURECC for “favouring a more active and a better integration of the Balkans in the European processes (…) and for contributing to achieving the principle of unity at which the European Parliament aims”.

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) representative, Ms Joanna Mouliou, Policy Officer, on behalf of the Head of Unit of Macro-Regions, Transnational/Interregional Cooperation, IPA and Enlargement, Mr Jean-Pierre Halkin, referred to the main objectives of the Macro-Regional Strategies as bottom-up territorial approaches based on cooperation with the actors in the area, to improve economic, social and territorial cohesion, political leadership and ownership, coordination and implementation.

Ms Mouliou underlined that the involvement of Civil Society Organisations and stakeholders is key for implementing the Macro-Regional Strategies and reminded participants that the AI-NURECC Initiative was launched by the European Commission together with the European Parliament, to contribute to bringing the regional and local actors and young people, the European institutions and the key implementers of the EUSAIR closer together, so that they can build a strong cooperation basis in relation to the EUSAIR Action Plan, generate flagship projects and strategic macroregional projects and involve an active and committed civil society level in its implementation. She underlined the importance of Creative and Cultural Industries, in terms of cooperation among the EU and non-EU countries and the new Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), and welcomed the relevant AI-NURECC Initiative’s actions.

Ms Mouliou closed the event by stating that AI-NURECC is important because it bridges the gaps with the Western Balkan countries, contributing to the EU integration process, and it sets the ground for the implementation of the cross-cutting issues of the EUSAIR, namely research, innovation and SMEs’ development.

Ms Manuela Bora, President of the CPMR Adriatic-Ionian Task Force, Regional Minister of Marche (Italy) thanked the AI-NURECC Initiative for bringing the different stakeholders closer together, the European Commission for having funded it and expressed the hope that the Initiative will carry on for the next three years. Cooperation with the European Parliament and renewal of its formal and informal Adriatic-Ionian-focused groups, such as the Friends of EUSAIR, is very precious for the continuation of our good work and the capitalisation of the knowledge acquired. Regional Minister Bora reaffirmed that it is a priority of the CPMR Adriatic-Ionian Task Force to try to make sure that we can better share resources and objectives, also in the political field, so that we can create synergies.

Mr Aldrin Dalipi, President of the Tirana Region and Deputy-President of the AIE, remarked how momentous AI-NURECC was in improving the Region’s involvement in macro-regional cooperation and renewed the interest in continuing collaboration with AI stakeholders.

AIE’s Secretary General, Mr Francesco Cocco, presented the results of four AI-NURECC events, which managed to target over 300 participants, half of which were young people. After the Info Day “Adriatic Ionian Youth own their Future” and the first “Adriatic Ionian Youth Organisations Forum”, which actively involved youth organisations from the eight EUSAIR countries, the time is ripe for a more structured engagement of young people in macro-regional cooperation.

Mrs Anna Bosco, for the FAIC Presidency/City of Vasto (Italy), recalled the successful project activities in fields such as youth empowerment, sustainable tourism and AI cooperation, EUSAIR policies, EU inclusive sport policies, and confirmed the willingness to productively collaborate with the AI key organisations and stakeholders. FAIC was the first to inaugurate the activities in April 2018 with the international conference “The future is near. Europe for youth, culture and creativity in the AI Region”; through actions such as the institution of the AI-NURECC Direct Infocenter or the massively participated EUSAIR Youth Games, it was able to reach a vast audience in the AI region as a whole.

Mr Michele De Vita, Forum AIC’s Secretary-General, remarked on the positive cooperation between the networks of Chambers of Commerce, Cities, Universities, and Regions of the Adriatic and Ionian area during the 18 months of the project and presented the results of the activities undertaken by the Chambers of Commerce network, specifically Sustainable Tourism and the Task Force on Cultural and Creative Industries.

The actions organised by Forum AIC have seen the participation of several young entrepreneurs, students, Chambers of Commerce, Local Authorities and other stakeholders of the AI region, and they aimed at supporting the dialogue in the field of culture by identifying issues of common interest and sharing best practices. The Adriatic Start-up School that was held in Ancona, lasted from May to June (9 weeks) and welcomed 15 young entrepreneurs from EUSAIR Countries. Through its Members, Forum AIC is working for a more structured follow-up of the initiative.

Prof. Donato Iacobucci, Secretary General of Uniadrion, demonstrated how AI-NURECC was productive for collaboration between civil society (fora), Regional Authorities and EU institutions for the achievement of EUSAIR aims. The Secretary General delivered a presentation showing the main outcomes of the project, namely a Summer School on “Migration and Mobility in the Balkans”, a study on the “State of play of multi-level and multi-factor governance of EUSAIR” (in the form of university research) and a “Research and Innovation platform” (in the form of website). The Secretary General concluded that there is still a lot of work to do: raising awareness of EUSAIR and its values among young people.