The European Commission has officially introduced a new EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region in the form of a Communication and an Action Plan, to help its 70 million residents reap the benefit of closer cooperation in areas like promoting the maritime economy, preserving the marine environment, completing transport and energy links and boosting sustainable tourism.
The Strategy will also provide a valuable opportunity for would-be members and candidates of the EU to work alongside EU members, in particular contributing to the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union.
This is the first EU ‘macro-regional strategy’ with such a large proportion of non-EU countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia) cooperating with EU members (Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Slovenia).
The Strategy mainly revolves around the opportunities of the maritime economy – ‘blue growth’, land-sea transport, energy connectivity, protecting the environment and sustainable tourism – sectors that are bound to play a crucial role in creating jobs and boosting economic growth in the region.
The starting point for this is the Maritime Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, adopted by the Commission on November 30, 2012, now incorporated into the Strategy.
European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn said: “The Adriatic Ionian will be Europe’s third macro-regional strategy.
The countries involved should learn lessons from the Baltic Sea and Danube Strategies, namely the importance of focusing on a few priorities with strong political leadership, if it is to have a real impact.
In a region that has seen some of Europe’s most serious recent conflicts, the Adriatic Ionian Strategy, with its cooperation between EU and non-EU neighbouring countries, could also play an important part in helping the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union.”
A pair of countries – one EU Member State and one non-EU country- coordinated the development of each element of the Action Plan:
- Greece and Montenegro on “Blue Growth”,
- Italy and Serbia on “Connecting the Region” (transport and energy networks),
- Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on “Environmental Quality”,
- Croatia and Albania on “Sustainable Tourism”.
In addition, capacity building as well as research, innovation and small and medium size business are cross-cutting aspects.
Climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as disaster risk management, are horizontal principles relevant to all four pillars.
June 18, 2014; Image: EC