EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region

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    On 11 and 12 May 2017, in Ioannina (Greece), more than 600 participants attended the 2nd Forum of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), jointly organised by the European Commission and the Hellenic Government.

    Held under the Greek (rotating) Chairmanship of the EUSAIR and hosted by the Region of Epirus, the Forum gathered together representatives of the national, regional and local administrations of the eight participating countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia) as well as a wide range of stakeholders (academia, business sector, civil society), to discuss the progress so far and define the way forward.

    George Katrougkalos and Alexis Charitsis, the Hellenic Alternate Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Economy and Development, hosted a meeting of the Foreign Affairs ministers ‎and the ministers responsible for EU funds, or their representatives, from the eight EUSAIR countries. At the ministerial meeting, the Commission was represented by DG REGIO Directors Lena Andersson Pench and Rudolf Niessler. The ministers adopted the Ioannina Ministerial Declaration where they agree to maintain strong political commitment, to strengthen administrative capacity and to ensure that strategy's objectives are duly included in EU funding programmes, and decide to set-up a collaborative platform via which countries can better coordinate their response to the refugee and migration challenges.

    This year's Forum focused on Blue Growth – one of the four Pillars of the EUSAIR – and its inter-relations with the other three Pillars: connectivity (transport and energy networks), environment and tourism.

    In a video message, Commissioner Creţu reaffirmed her true belief in the EUSAIR as a powerful tool to bring growth and jobs as well as to support EU integration of the participating Western Balkan countries, fostering stability in the Region. In another video message, Commissioner Vella welcomed the Forum's aim to reinforce connections between the four Pillars and referred to the Blue Med Initiative, which is meant to develop the Blue Economy in the Mediterranean.

    In four consecutive thematic plenary sessions, the Strategy's key implementers presented the EUSAIR project concepts identified so far by the eight participating countries under the EUSAIR Pillars, and discussed with the stakeholders the way forward.

    A Business-to-Business (B2B) session, organised back-to-back with the Forum by the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), brought together more than 250 participants from SMEs, universities, chambers of commerce, and other stakeholders from the Region, as well as the EIB, the JRC and other relevant European Commission services. More than 400 bilateral meetings were booked by participants, providing the opportunity for exchanges in order to find partners for projects and/or explore new business opportunities.

    The Forum was closed by Greece handing over the EUSAIR Chairmanship to Italy for the period June 2017-May 2018.

    More on the 2nd Forum in the EUSAIR website.

    Today and tomorrow, the second annual forum of the EU macro-regional Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) takes place in Ioannina, jointly organized by the European Commission and the Hellenic Republic.

    An important platform for dialogue for the 8 countries included in the Strategy, the current edition of the Forum will focus on blue growth and its interrelation with environmental quality, sustainable tourism and connectivity.

    Ministers and other representatives of the 8 participating countries, as well as representatives of the European Commission, members of civil society, external stakeholders together with academics and entrepreneurs, will exchange ideas and present project proposals, while also assessing the results of the EUSAIR after two years of implementation and discussing the way forward for the strategy. The ministers representing the 8 member states are expected to sign the Ioannina Declaration, confirming the progress made up to now and recommending the steps ahead.

    The European Commission has released a Report on the implementation of EU macro-regional strategies in December last year.


    The EU macro-regional Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region was launched in October 2014. The macro-region, home to 70 million people, will benefit from increased cooperation in four key areas: blue growth, transport, environmental quality and sustainable tourism. It involves four Member States (Croatia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia), as well as Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina).

    The EUSAIR promotes economic growth and prosperity in the Region by improving its attractiveness, competitiveness and connectivity. It also aims at protecting the sea, coastal and inland environment and ecosystems. Moreover, the Strategy is expected to better integrate into the EU both candidate and potential candidate countries across the Region.

    2nd Forum of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR)


    Today the European Commission adopted the first ever single report on the implementation of the four existing European Union (EU) macro-regional strategies: the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region and the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region

    The report provides an assessment of the state of implementation of the current strategies and takes stock of the main results achieved to date. It draws lessons from the experience gained so far and presents a number of recommendations on possible developments of the strategies and their action plans, also in the light of the future cohesion policy. 

    Common cross-cutting issues relevant for all four strategies are addressed in the report, regardless of their degree of maturity (e.g. policy making and planning, governance, monitoring and evaluation, funding and communication). Key results and challenges for each macro-regional strategy are presented in specific sections. 

    Overall the implementation of the four EU macro-regional strategies, covering 19 EU Member States and 8 non-EU countries, has generated stronger interest in and awareness of the European territorial cooperation and territorial cohesion and its added value. They have led to increased coordination and strengthened cooperation in certain areas (e.g. navigability, energy, climate change) and between countries concerned, as well as intensified cooperation with non-EU countries, bringing them closer to the EU. Strategies have also contributed to shaping policy, implementation of existing legislation and a deeper dialogue between different actors. 

    However, the strategies have not shown yet their full potential and certain challenges still need to be overcome. Greater ownership and responsibility need to be retained by Member States who initiated the strategies; effectiveness of governance systems needs to be improved; relevant existing funding sources (EU, regional, national) need to be better coordinated. The report also underlines the importance of administrative resources and capacity to deliver the set objectives. 

    Certain questions are raised in the light of future cohesion policy. These are, in particular, concerning synergies and complementarities between EU macro-regional strategies and programmes supported by the European Structural and Investment Funds, as well as alignment of strategies with Interreg transnational programmes and further improvement of governance system. 

    The report is accompanied by a Commission Staff Working Document which provides more detailed information concerning the state of implementation of each macro-regional strategy, as well as specific recommendations. 

    The report provides a comprehensive understanding on how the four EU macro-regional strategies work by including concrete examples implemented in the respective areas. Each of these has specific added-value, such:

    • the quality of the Baltic Sea water is improving and nutrient inflows are being reduced through implementation of projects like PRESTO or Interactive water management (IWAMA);
    • innovative and sustainable use of marine resources and cooperation between relevant actors and initiatives in the Baltic Sea region in this field is being further actively promoted by the SUBMARINER Network;
    • in the Danube river basin, the coordinated management of water and risk management though projects like SEERISK reduces considerably the risk of damage by floods;
    • bottlenecks to navigability of the Danube are being removed and security of navigation improved though projects like FAIRWAY and DARIF;
    • cooperation with EU countries on concrete issues of common interest within the EU Strategy for Adriatic and Ionian Region helps Western Balkan participating countries paving their way towards the EU accession;
    • aiming at a sustainable economic growth respectful of the environment, green/blue corridors linking land and sea in the Adriatic and Ionian Sea have been identified as a key area where strategic projects should be promoted;
    • establishing a cross-border educational space for dual vocational training in the Alpine region is addressed through projects like ‘mountErasmus’;
    • cross-border connectivity in the Alpine region is improved with regard to passenger transport by developing ‘AlpInfoNet’ into a cross-border travel information system. 

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The European Council of 13-14 December 2012 requested the European Commission to present a new EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) before the end of 2014.

Building on the lessons learnt and experience from the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, the Commission adopted on 17 June 2014 a Communication on the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region, accompanied by an Action Plan . The Strategy incorporates the Maritime Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, adopted by the Commission on 30 November 2012.

The Strategy was endorsed by the General Affairs Council on 29 September (see Council Conclusions) and subsequently by the European Council on 24 October 2014.

For news and information on the activities and progress of the Strategy, please visit the EUSAIR's dedicated website

To get in contact with the team in DG REGIO please send an e-mail to