The European Commission has launched a new EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region on 17 June 2014.
The strategy mainly revolves around the opportunities of the maritime economy - 'blue growth', land-sea transport, energy connectivity, protecting the marine environment and promoting 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 30 November 2012 and now incorporated into the Strategy.
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 countries (Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Slovenia). A pair of countries – one EU country and one non-EU country- coordinated the development of each element of the Action Plan:
1. Greece and Montenegro on "Blue Growth": this pillar intends to drive innovative maritime and marine growth in the Region, by promoting sustainable economic development and jobs, and business opportunities in the Blue economy.
2. Italy and Serbia on "Connecting the Region" (transport and energy networks): this pillar aims to improve transport and energy connectivity in the Region and with the rest of Europe.
3. Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on "Environmental Quality": this pillar addresses environmental quality through better cooperation at the level of the Region
4. Croatia and Albania on "Sustainable Tourism": this pillar aims to develop the full potential of the Region in terms of innovative, sustainable, responsible and quality 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.
The maritime strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Seas (2012) assesses the needs and potential of sea-related activities and sets out a framework for coordinated efforts by all maritime stakeholders aiming at:
These objectives constitute the four priority areas of the strategy and are resulted from extensive stakeholder consultations held in 2012 and stakeholder workshops in Athens, Trieste and Portoroz. These objectives and the proposed actions were discussed at the stakeholder conference “Setting an Agenda for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth from the Adriatic and Ionian Seas" (Zagreb, Croatia, 6 December 2012).
The conference conclusions confirmed broad support for the direction taken by the 2012 maritime strategy and laid the foundation for the work on an action plan. Nevertheless, they also showed the need for a wider macro-regional strategy.
The contents of the Maritime Strategy are now fully incorporated in the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (video).
The European Council of 13-14 December 2012 requested the Commission to bring forward an EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region before the end of 2014, building on the experiences of the Danube and Baltic Sea Regions. The newly launched strategy takes into account the outcomes of the on-line public stakeholder consultations conducted between September 2013 and January 2014 as well as the discussions from the stakeholder seminar on "Boosting Blue Growth in the Adriatic and Ionian Region: towards an Action Plan, for the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR)" (Brussels) and the Stakeholder Conference in Athens on 6-7 February 2014. It has been transmitted to the Council on 18 June 2014 and it is expected that the EU leaders in the European Council, under the Italian Presidency, will endorse the strategy later this year.
Two studies assessed the blue growth potential of the Adriatic and Ionian seas and analysed the current status and potential development of maritime clusters in the sea-basins. The results are published on the Maritime Forum.