Macro-regional strategies (MRS) represent a new model of multi-level governance. They involve stakeholders representing EU, national, regional and local levels, as well as different policies and programmes.
They are still a fairly new feature of the EU's toolbox, which can be used to foster territorial cohesion and collective action. Their aim is to improve functional cooperation in areas such as transport infrastructure, economic development, implementing integrated maritime policy and protecting the environment.
Macro-regional strategies can also be used to mobilise joint efforts on innovation, risk management, security and tourism. MRS cover areas that bring together different countries and regions - both inside and outside the EU.
They offer a new governance framework for taking on development challenges and opportunities, when these cannot be dealt with by local authorities, regions and states independently from each other, or are too specific to be approached at EU level.
Therefore, it can be argued that macro-regional strategies can fill a vacuum between the local, regional and member state levels, and the European level. Additionally, during the economic crisis, they are a useful non-cost tool to better coordinate available resources and increase the effectiveness of these investments.
The added value of MRS is often seen in integrated approaches - collective action working towards a common objective, providing a platform for bringing together various stakeholders, policies and financial resources.
The Adriatic and Ionian region needs a document outlining engagement at different levels of governance, including local, regional, national and European. This will create conditions for the coherent development of the whole region.
'Blue growth', as one of our four thematic pillars of the EU strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region (EUSAIR), should create new business opportunities and jobs by unlocking the potential of Europe's seas and coastal areas.
My aim as Parliament's rapporteur on the topic is to promote innovative maritime and marine growth in the region by defining new governance models for the sustainable development of marine and land-based fisheries and aquaculture.
Fisheries are one of the key components of coastal and island economies. As such, the protection and preservation of fish stocks must be paramount.
Environmental quality is essential for ensuring the economic and social wellbeing of the region’s inhabitants. My report will focus on joint efforts to deal with the entire life cycle of marine litter, as well as shared planning to prevent and react to oil spills and other environmental threats.
I believe it is important to support the shipbuilding sector in order to achieve sustainable and competitive growth that is in line with blue technologies. However, we must not forget to support and foster sport and family fishing, especially on the islands, in order to preserve local cultural traditions and maritime lifestyles of islanders and small coastal sites.
The Adriatic and Ionian region has significant infrastructure deficits. My report underlines the importance of improving transport connectivity between the participating countries, as well as between them and their other neighbours.
This includes maritime transport, inter-modal connections, and connections between the two coasts, as well as maritime transport routes and ports with other parts of Europe.
The report also points out the lack of effective connections to the islands in the region. It is important to finalise the Adriatic-Ionian highway as soon as possible.
Participating countries must continue their efforts to diversify energy supply sources. This is a process that will improve MRS energy security, increase competition and deliver important benefits for the region’s economic development.
It is important to develop liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in the macro-region, particularly in Croatia and
Albania, as well as exploiting available renewable resources such as solar and wind energy as part of the energy production mix.
The report also highlights the importance of sustainability and competitiveness, and the need for hydroelectric power plants, in particular in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
Sustainable tourism is an important pillar of the EUSAIR. Cooperation between countries is essential for the further development of tourism. Establishing 'Adriatic' and 'Ionian' tourism brands is essential, so as to streamline marketing activities and increase the visibility of the regions as destinations in the global market.
We support the development of a diversified tourism offer to extend the tourist season and improve the destinations' competitiveness.
All priority areas, targets and related indicators need to be developed into realistic and easily measureable goals. This should be monitored on an annual basis, and the results should be presented to the general public in a way that is easy to understand.
The lessons learned have taught us that the crucial challenge in realising the potential of the EU strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region is keeping all stakeholders committed in the long term.