EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region

Additional tools



    On 23 September 2020, the European Commission adopted the third biennial report [COM(2020)578], covering the period from mid-2018 to mid-2020, on the implementation of the four EU macro-regional strategies (MRS): the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) and the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP).

    The report is published at a time when the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is having severe economic, fiscal and social impacts on the European society. Therefore, in addition to assessing the state of implementation of the MRS, the report also considers the role that MRS can play in addressing the crisis through coordinated actions.

    In terms of achievements, the report focuses on the three, broad, interconnected priorities that all four MRS have in common: environment and climate change; research & innovation and economic development; and connectivity (transport, energy, digital networks). These three priorities are closely connected with key actions of the European Green Deal as well as the European Digital Agenda and ‘An economy that works for people’.

    As examples of concrete achievements in the period covered by the report, the MRS have:

    • helped improve water quality through a better management of hazardous substances being released into the Baltic Sea and a better monitoring of the Adriatic-Ionian Seas;
    • helped enhance the water status of the Danube river through reinforced cooperation between river basin management planning and flood risk prevention;
    • helped develop the conditions for ecological connectivity in the Alpine region by deploying green infrastructure;
    • supported knowledge capitalisation and sharing research and innovation in the Alpine and the Danube regions;
    • promoted energy efficient inland waterway transport by contributing to the implementation of the ‘Fairway Rehabilitation and Maintenance Master Plan’;
    • supported the sustainable development of transport corridors in the Baltic Sea region and the distribution and supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for maritime transport in the Adriatic-Ionian region.

    Full details on achievements in all priority areas of each MRS are to be found in the staff working document accompanying the report [SWD(2020)186].

    The MRS are a powerful tool to support economic, social and territorial development and integration, and to foster good relations with neighbouring countries. They are also a flexible tool to react to new global challenges. The MRS provide a ready and operational cooperation framework to ensure better coordination of actions, investments and projects within their territories. For all these reasons, they can play a significant role in helping MRS countries and regions to tackle the post-COVID-19 crisis by implementing, in a coordinated manner, the European Green Deal and the European Digital Strategy, which are the cornerstone of Europe’s growth strategy. In that respect, the report recommends a close coordination between MRS national and thematic coordinators and all relevant stakeholders across the macro-region in the areas in which the MRS have proved their added value.

    As the MRS do not have their own resources, their implementation depends on bundling funding from different sources. Therefore, the success or failure of the MRS is ultimately linked to their capacity to ensure that EU, national, regional, and other public and private funds are aligned with the priorities of the relevant strategy.

    In this regard, in the last two years coordination has been ongoing between MRS national and thematic coordinators and national/regional authorities responsible of EU programmes supported by the European Structural and Investment (ESI), IPA III and NDICI funds. The aim is to ‘embed’ MRS priorities into the next generation (2021-2027) of these national/regional programmes. All four MRS have taken initiatives to accelerate and strengthen this ‘embedding’ process. Efforts should be intensified during the preparation of programmes before their transmission to Brussels. This is vital for the MRS to achieve their economic, social and territorial objectives and to contribute to the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

    The report also highlights the role that MRS play with regard to the enlargement process. The cooperation between EU Member States and countries of the Western Balkans in the Adriatic-Ionian and Danube strategies enables convergence to EU policies to substantiate their perspective for EU membership. In this context, the inclusion on April 2020 of the Republic of North Macedonia in the Adriatic-Ionian strategy highlighted the attractiveness that this cooperation framework offers to accession countries. Closer synergies between MRS and the enlargement process is key to supporting the EU perspective for the Western Balkans, in line with the EU priority ‘A stronger Europe in the world’. The current involvement on an equal footing of the Western Balkans in the Adriatic-Ionian and the Danube strategies should be further enhanced, including by ensuring their effective participation in implementing the twin green and digital transition.

    Next Steps

    The report and its accompanying staff working document are now transmitted to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions for their consideration.

    More information

    On 2 April 2020, EUSAIR, the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, embraced the Republic of North Macedonia as its ninth participating country. This is very good news for regional cooperation within the whole Adriatic and Ionian Region. Below, Marc Lemaître, European Commission Director-General and Agneza Rusi Popovska, Ambassador of North Macedonia to the EU, welcome EUSAIR’s latest  member.

    Agneza Rusi Popovska

    North Macedonia has become the ninth participating country in EUSAIR, alongside Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. We are grateful for the support to join the EUSAIR family and look forward to contributing to strengthening regional cooperation and broadening the multi-level policy dialogue for a more integrated and sustainable Adriatic-Ionian macro-region.

    Regional cooperation is essential for sustainable development and a prerequisite in the European integration process. As a landlocked country on the hinterland of the Adriatic and Ionian sea basin, North Macedonia is strongly motivated to deepen the partnerships and links that promote economic growth and prosperity within the region, foster European values and advance its European integration.

    Making better connections

    The responsibility to coordinate EUSAIR’s connectivity pillar, together with Italy and Serbia, is a privilege entrusted to North Macedonia. We intend to justify this trust by proactively promoting the functional integration of the transport and energy networks both within the region and across the EU. Better transport and energy connections are pivotal for economic and social development, but tangible results can only be achieved with a cooperative and coordinated approach to address challenges and harness opportunities. 

    Following the EU’s decision in March 2020 to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia, we hope our inclusion in EUSAIR will reinforce the strategy’s political dimension, alongside the process of integrating the region’s candidate and potential candidate countries into the EU. Deepening the experience of implementing EU policies can only reinforce the Union’s transformative power in the region and enhance collective stability, security and prosperity.

    The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, in the most fundamental way, the importance of close cooperation, coordination and solidarity in confronting the health crisis and its socio-economic consequences. As emphasised in the May 2020 EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit Declaration, once we have exited the current containment measures, a new phase of close cooperation will follow to tackle the significant socio-economic impact of the crisis.

    The European Commission will put forward a robust economic and investment plan to spur the region’s long-term recovery while advancing its green and digital transformation, furthering connectivity and strengthening social development. EUSAIR member states and stakeholders should seize the opportunities arising from Europe’s post-coronavirus recovery and the renewed dynamics of EU integration in the Western Balkans to mobilise themselves in result-oriented cooperation to further stimulate the sustainable development of the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region.

    Marc Lemaître

    The inclusion of North Macedonia in the EUSAIR reinforces its political dimension and strengthens its role in the convergence and enlargement processes, setting it up as the ‘enlargement’ macro-regional strategy, covering five IPA (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance) countries and four EU Member States. Cooperation on an equal footing contributes to the mutual learning process and to extending relevant EU policies to North Macedonia, while supporting the priorities of the new Commission, with a special focus on a ‘Stronger Europe in the World’ and the ‘European Green Deal’.

    The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating in Europe and worldwide. While the EU itself has been heavily affected by coronavirus, it is providing essential and unparalleled support to the Western Balkans. It has secured funding of more than EUR 3.3 billion for the region to address the immediate health and humanitarian needs and to support medium- and long-term socio-economic recovery plans.

    Sustainable and inclusive growth

    Furthermore, on 27 May 2020, the Commission set out a bold and comprehensive plan for European recovery driven by three core values: solidarity, cohesion, and convergence. In this context, I am convinced that EUSAIR’s cooperation framework can play a unique role, not only to better respond to the most urgent needs on the ground but also to establish the basis for more sustainable and inclusive growth in the Adriatic-Ionian Region.

    The inclusion of North Macedonia has come at the right moment, when the Commission, Member States and the IPA countries are engaged in the programming of the 2021-2027 funding. The time is ripe to ensure that EUSAIR priorities are well reflected in all relevant EU funds and implemented through cooperation. I am convinced that North Macedonia, with the support of administrations in the other EUSAIR countries, will be able to capitalise on the opportunities provided by macro-regional cooperation. 

    I invite North Macedonia to participate actively in all EUSAIR governing structures, to bring its own experience as an EU candidate country in all relevant sectors and to use it together with all countries across the region. All positive energies will be required to help kick-start EUSAIR economies towards recovery, boost their twin digital and green transitions, and make them fairer, more resilient and more sustainable for future generations.


    Panorama Magazine 73

    In these times, Europe’s tourism sector experiences a new demand for special and diverse short trips closer to home.

    A joint project of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, and DG Regio, European Commission, proposes you different itineraries in your region to accommodate your wanderlust and to get to know Routes4U.

    Routes4U combines a selection of the Council of Europe’s 38 certified Cultural Routes and the four EU macro-regional strategies, supported by the European Commission, giving tourists a chance to discover Europe’s diverse landscape of cultures, history, and gastronomy in the Adriatic and Ionian, the Alpine, the Baltic Sea and the Danube Regions.

    In a new video launched today, Routes4U will take you on a breath-taking adventure on new cultural routes under development through the European continent and beyond, covering 31 countries: 19 EU member states and 12 non-EU countries. Enjoy a cultural journey – explore your macro-region!

    With more than 15 years’ experience as a certified Cultural Route of the Council of Europe, the Routes of the Olive Tree gives visitors a taste of the life, traditions and history of the Mediterranean people, with world-famous festivals, exhibitions, music and product tasting events.

    The project of the Iron Age Route around the Danube river basin uncovers ancient treasures in unspoilt nature, allowing visitors to discover the hidden archaeological heritage that spans this fascinating region.

    The legacy of the Roman empire is still felt today in European culture, inspiring generations of artists, urbanists and architects. The theme of Roman Heritage gives visitors a chance to uncover lesser-known Roman sites across nine countries in the Adriatic and Ionian regions, while the Via Claudia Augusta takes tourists on a journey along trans-Alpine line of communication developed during the reign of Emperor Claudius.

    A trip to the Byzantine era takes visitors through the countries of the Danube region along the Cyril and Methodius Route to follow in the footsteps of the two saints whose contribution to the growth of the common Christian roots of Europe included the creation of the Glagolitic alphabet and the translation of the Bible into the Slavic language.

    The Maritime Heritage of the Baltic Sea offers the opportunity to explore submerged landscapes from the Stone Age, an abundance of shipwrecks from centuries of intense trade and conflict, as well as beautiful coastal landscapes that have shaped the cultural identity of the region.

    Dedicated to modern architecture as a binding element of the Baltic Sea region, you will discover the emblematic 20th century design through the works of this seminal Finnish designer Alvar Aalto, who laid the groundwork for the humanised, user-friendly environments we take for granted today.

    Finally, the Via Alpina and Mountain Heritage, a network of five hiking routes across the Alps, opens up the alpine experience to everyone through all seasons, in a journey through serene forests, rocky mountain ranges, and crystalline lakes.

    Looking forward to welcome you along the routes,

    Further information : Routes4U


More news

The Adriatic and Ionian Region is a functional area primarily defined by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas basin. Covering also an important terrestrial surface area, this Region homes more than 70 million inhabitants. The EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region involves 9 countries, four EU Member States (Croatia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia) and five Accession Countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia Serbia).

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.

The European Commission coordinates the efforts of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region. For news and information on the activities and progress of the Strategy as curated by the various stakeholders, please visit the EUSAIR’s dedicated website at

The Strategy is divided into four pillars, which represent the three key challenges of the Strategy: Blue growth, Connecting the Region, Environmental quality, Sustainable tourism. Each pillar relates to a wide range of policies and has an impact on the other objectives. The Strategy helps to mobilise all relevant EU funding and policies and coordinate the actions of the European Union, EU countries, regions, pan-Adriatic & Ionian organisations, financing institutions and non-governmental bodies to promote a more balanced development of the Adriatic and Ionian Region.

The Adriatic and Ionian region defines several thematic areas:

  • Blue technologies
  • Fisheries and aquaculture
  • Maritime and marine governance and services
  • Maritime transport
  • Intermodal connections to the hinterland
  • Energy networks
  • The Marine environment
  • Transnational terrestrial habitats and biodiversity
  • Diversified tourism offer
  • Sustainable and responsible tourism management

Better coordination and cooperation between the countries and regions is needed to address these challenges.

The Strategy does not come with extra EU finance but it is supported from the resources already available according to an integrated approach. Countries may also make use of the funding they receive through EU cohesion policy, other EU programmes and financial instruments, and various international financial institutions.
To know more about financial opportunities visit

  • Since 2013 until April 2020, half of the countries in the Adriatic and Ionian region have been EU countries. Currently the EUSAIR includes 4 EU MS and 5 accession countries.
  • Many of the problems are covered by EU policies.
  • As an independent player with respected authority, the EU is in a good position to facilitate cooperation.
  • The EU already runs programmes in the region and so can provide opportunities for cooperation.

As for the implementation, the Strategy will be based on the key principles applied for the existing macro-regional strategies: no new EU funds, no additional EU formal structures and no EU legislation, while relying on a coordinated approach, synergy effects and a more effective use of existing EU funds and other financial instruments. The aim is to produce a clear added value based on jointly identified objectives.

To get in contact with the EUSAIR team in DG REGIO, please email the secretary of the REGIO. DDG.D1 : For more information on how to get in contact with EUSAIR stakeholders, please visit the EUSAIR website.