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Home Education International conferences, round tables & festivals Brainstorming on The Adriatic-Ionian European Region: Perspectives for Regional Cooperation, Integration and Stability
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The Adriatic-Ionian European Region: Perspectives for Regional Cooperation, Integration and Stability

Faenza, Dec 17th, 2010

In brief
by Aurora Domeniconi

Click to enlarge

On Friday, December 17th, 2010 an international brainstorming session on "The Adriatic Ionian European Region: Perspectives for Regional Cooperation, Integration and Stability" took place in Faenza.

Organized by the Istituto per l'Europa Centro-Orientale e Balcanica, the aim of the meeting was to discuss the Adriatic basin as a European region as well as a subject of regional cooperation and integration. The discussion focused on the already existing initiatives of trans-national cooperation, chief obstacles to the development of a common perception of the region, and drew some conclusions on the opportunities for strengthening cooperation towards further integration.

The meeting, held behind closed doors in Faenza, gathered a group of well-known experts who are currently involved in trans-border cooperation activities as representatives of regional organizations and scholars, both senior and junior. We were glad that Amb. Luigi Vittorio Ferraris (University of Rome "La Sapienza") Amb. Alessandro Grafini (Secretary General for the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative) took part in the brainstorming session. They analysed the topic under discussion together with Marco Bellardi (Adriatic-Ionian Initiative), Stefano Bianchini (University of Bologna), Viktor Bojkov (European Commission), Milan Bufon (University of Primorska), Muris Cicic (University of Sarajevo), Emilio Cocco (University of Teramo), Giuseppe Di Paola (Adriatic-Ionian Initiative), Sotiraq Hroni (Institute for Democracy and Mediation), Ivan Jakovčić (President of the Adriatic Euroregion), Remzi Lani (Albanian Media Institute), Marco Lombardi (Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Simona Mameli (University of Bern), Jasmina Osmanković (University of Sarajevo), Francesco Privitera (University of Bologna), Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers (University of Bologna), Jovan Teokarević (University of Belgrade), Boris Tihi (University of Sarajevo), Nikolaos Tzifakis (University of Peloponnese), Milica Uvalic (University of Perugia), and Mitja Žagar (Institute for Ethnic Studies).

The main aim of the brainstorming session was to identify some basic elements with which to draw a "Road Map" of regional cooperation in the Adriatic-Ionian area; a map that includes the reconstruction of shared identities, strengthening of governance and development perspectives, and the sharing of strategies consistent with the idea of European integration as well as respect for minority groups. In the end, identifying this map will be helpful in understanding which levers can bring stabilization to a region often affected by instability.

With this general aim, at the morning session participants tried to identify the difficulties which interfere with regional stabilization on the one hand, and the main positive aspects which work towards integration on the other. Then, starting with the joint initiatives and projects already in place in the region, they examined future perspectives for regional cooperation. After this exchange of ideas, the afternoon session was devoted to analysing proposals for further cooperation leading to the strengthening of already existing activities. The main conclusions of the brainstorming session – part of a broader research supported by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs – will be summed up in a policy paper containing recommendations for the governments of the countries involved.

Personal report
by Maria Pitukhina
St.Petersburg State University

Professors from Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia met to work out potential proposals for the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative.

Brainstorming is a very popular method in decision-making theory as it enables ideas to flow in a rather informal atmosphere. The brainstorming session organized in Faenza was an important step in delineating the profile of the region known as AdrIon, and should help to create its identity in the future. The first part of the session consisted of short presentations made by participants. The aim of these presentations was to outline 3 main problematic aspects that could be traced in the AdrIon. Hence, a profile of the region was created. The second part of the session was devoted to a flow of ideas to reveal what could be suggested and done.

Mitja Zagar from the Institute for Ethnic Studies (Ljubljana, Slovenia) started the discussion claiming that three problematic aspects of the AdrIon region are crises which affect global and national affairs; the capacity to cooperate and develop mutual projects, which is rather low; and lack of communication and structure.

Milica Uvalic from the University of Perugia (Italy) mentioned the following as crucial points: Western Europe’s slow economic recovery after the crises, and a decrease in the functioning of democracy and a downgrading of institutions after crises. In this context there was a low level of confidence and institutions became ineffective; cooperation within the region is more academically centered, while there should be more common projects.

Alessandro Grafini, Ambassador of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative also claimed 3 crucial problems for AdrIon: economic imbalance, in his opinion the main issue; consequences of ethnic and political conflicts; and development of political and economic organizations. For example, three members of the AdrIon – Italy, Greece, Slovenia – are EU members, Croatia is about to join, but the others are behind.

Milan Bufon from the University of Primorska (Slovenia) concentrated mainly on geopolitics and history and aspects AdrIon members all have in common. He also stated that integration on an institutional level is more active that integration on a human level. He added that sound cooperation usually starts on a grass-roots level.

Remzi Lani from Albanian Media Institute (Albania) pointed out that AdrIon has no precise agenda. He stated that it is a pity that on the human level there are still many prejudices and biases, much more than on the institutional level, for example when the visa regime for Albania was removed in summer 2010.

Greek participant Nikolaos Tzifakis from Peloponnese University (Greece) highlighted that the AdrIon member-states have different foreign policy dimensions and priorities. They are not constructing a common identity and as a result, constructing reality is very difficult. He agreed with the previously cited economic imbalance among the AdrIon countries and stated that while good coordination is necessary, it is currently lacking.

Francesco Privitera from the University of Bologna (Italy) stated that brainstorming is highly important in terms of contributing to macro-regional development. It helps to discuss proposals and find answers to questions. However, he stated that this region’s main problem is the lack of the region itself. He also mentioned that the EU is very far from this region and doesn’t treat this initiative as promising. He also stated that people should get beyond post-communism and post-Cold War legacies and move into the future.

Sotiraq Hroni from the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (Albania) affirmed that a major drawback of the AdrIon is the lack of initiatives; he also questioned the potential existence of the initiative itself and stressed that communication capacities in the region are low.

Ivan Jakovčić, president of the Adriatic Euroregion (Croatia) cited that the states of the AdrIon are very different economically (in terms of GDP), politically (EU members versus non-EU members), and socially. Thus cooperation is very difficult, takes lots of time and EU funding for project development is not adequate. At the same time, cooperation among universities of the AdrIon is quite high. Jakovcic believes it is important to organize conferences, to speak with each other. It is also important to create a common Adriatic identity as is done in northern Europe between Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and northwestern Russia. The main core of the Northern identity is sustainability and peace. As a result, a number of initiatives, projects, and various councils have been created and function actively.

Muris Cicic from the University of Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) stressed the problem of leadership in the AdrIon. He stated that there are no charismatic leaders in the region who could lead their countries to a prosperous future. Moreover, he called attention to the huge number of political problems among the AdrIon members themselves. Bosnia and Herzegovina are recovering from war, Serbia and Kosovo have serious clashes, Macedonia and Greece still have disputes. This prevents the countries from cooperating and integrating. Thus the region is not moving forward. Weak governments are not capable of resolving all the problematic issues.

Stephanie Schwandner–Sievers from the University of Bologna (Italy) stated that tourism could be a good solution for cooperation among the AdrIon members. She mentioned the project “Adriatic tourism”, considered a milestone for regional cooperation.

Emilio Cocco from the University of Teramo (Italy) stressed that a culturally and socially united AdrIon region should be compared with the Baltic Sea State region in the future. Political representation, the legacy of imperialism, nationalism, and religious issues are all highly important.

Jovan Teokarević from Belgrade University (Serbia) said that the specific goals of AdrIon integration are not defined and are still vague. He raised the question “what does the region intend to do?” He believes there are two main ideas the region should try to pursue – the Grand idea and functional integration. The main lever for the AdrIon should be “Europeanization”. Functional integration is an acute issue. For example, the EU-Balkans summit in Brdo in Slovenia in June 2010 was a disaster. Serbia boycotted the summit as well as high EU officials, who didn’t participate. This summit proved that EU leaders are not interested in meeting Balkan leaders. This all means that AdrIon has to work further on functional democracies.

From the region’s vast number of problems Luigi Vittorio Ferraris from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (Italy) cited the grand idea of the Balkans; political differences among states (EU-members vs non-EU members); and profound economic imbalances.

Stefano Bianchini from the University of Bologna (Italy) stated that the region is very weak and is underestimated internationally (as shown by the results of the EU-Balkans summit in June 2010 and the lack of financing). Policy implementation is also weak. However, peace and sustainability are very important. He envisaged three main issues for AdrIon: shared geopolitics (the Adriatic Sea), culture (a high concentration of UNESCO legacy); innovation and research as a possible crucial step towards future integration and cooperation; the necessary development of civil society in the forms of various networks.

Victor Bojkov, Bulgarian official at the European Commission (Belgium) stated that the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative should also meet on a ministerial level on a permanent basis. He also claimed that the identity of the Western Balkans is strong but not strong enough to develop the AdrIon.

Simona Mameli, a young researcher from the University of Bern (Switzerland) presented the results of a questionnaire conducted to obtain perceptions on the Adriatic Ionian Initiative. Eighty young academics from the AdrIon region aged around 35 with postgraduate degrees were the respondents. The questionnaire was gender-balanced. The first question was devoted to the region’s identity: 55% of the respondents identify themselves with the Western Balkans; 33% identify themselves with Eastern Europe; and 18% identify themselves with the Adriatic region (mostly Italian and Croatian respondents). The second question concerned regional initiatives: 50% of the respondents knew nothing about regional initiatives, another 50% knew about the Adriatic Ionian Initiative, the Stability Pact for Eastern Europe, and a number of other smaller initiatives. These results show that AdrIon’s main issues are a lack of cooperation and overlapping initiatives. Ms Mameli also mentioned distrust and prejudice, and widespread corruption and nationalism as the three problematic issues the region faces.

The second part of the brainstorming session was devoted to developing proposals which will be helpful for AdrIon in the future. Ideas discussed were as follows:

  • Cooperation among universities should be strengthened (in terms of more common projects, conferences, double-degree programs, “Adriatic tourism” etc.)
  • A common AdrIon identity should be created and stereotypes should be removed (based on the example of the Northern identity)
  • visa-regime removal is a good step towards future integration
  • expanded funding, since all the projects are based on national funding
  • transport and infrastructure upgrading
  • helping each other with economic recovery
  • industrial policy strengthening
  • future EU membership
  • tourism development
  • Helsinki approach based on sustainability, peace and the creation of more initiatives
  • creation of civil society (NGO’s, support of the international film festival in Sarajevo)
  • updating of EU legislation
  • strengthening the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation
  • developing tolerance towards immigrants
  • a virtual museum of the AdrIon could help depict all its aspects
  • creation of more networks (like SICRIS, SEE net)
  • strengthening cooperation in culture, innovation and research

As a result, it was clear that the AdrIon is necessary since it provides many opportunities for cooperation and integration.

Registered users can also browse our picture gallery for this event.

Display #
Adrion - The Bigger Picture

By: Dushko Bogunovich on 2011-Jan-06 11:17:44
If we want to develop an optimistic scenario of the 'perspectives for regional co-operation, integration and stability' in the Adriatic region, then too much dwelling on the recent history and the present troubles, and only on the region itself, will not be of great assistance.

Instead, we should look deeper both into the past and the future, and, in the case of the future, look at that future at the global level, not just regional ('where is this whole world heading, not just Adrion?').

Also, we should look at spatial scales both above and below the spatial scale of the region itself ('what is this place a key part of, and where is its centre?').

In other words, to define the fundamental identity of, and the best purpose for, the Adrion region, we must answer these two questions:

1) what is Adrion's geographic context, and what (where) is its geographic center and/or core?

2) what will matter most to the whole world over the next few decades?

The answer to the first question is: Adrion belongs to two geopolitical entities - united Europe, and the Mediterranean. It is in fact right at the centre of the Euro-Mediterranean super region. And this is equally true whether we look in the north-south direction, or west-east.

This is an extremely privileged location. It is no accident that the Adriatic-Ionian area has for millennia been the meeting point of the Occident and the Orient, of Europe and Africa. It is no exaggeration to assert that, over almost 2000 years, the region has acted as the crucible and the bridge in the formation of the 'Western Civilisation' (resulting at present day in the extraordinary 'density' of UNESCO Heritage listings, that Prof. Bianchini spoke of).

Nowadays, for a long list of reasons - all those pressing issues between Europe and North Africa, and between Europe and Eastern Asia/Middle East - Adrion is again assuming the importance it once had. It is reasonable then to expect from its political and cultural elites to lead their nations out of their current parochial obsession with local rivalries and squabbles and enable the region assume its critical geopolitical, cultural and economic role in bringing Europe, North Africa and Western Asia together.

That addresses the question of Adrion's context. The answer to the second part of the first question - 'what is the core and where is the centre' - in my mind is simple: the core is Dalmatia (with the addition of the Boka perhaps), and the centre is in Dubrovnik! Both propositions may be obvious to some, but probably also contentious for many more. I will leave these two propositions 'unproven' this time, due to lack of time. The question is delicate for obvious political reasons and needs a very thoroughly prepared argument.

The answer to the second question is - climate change. The problem of the disturbed global weather system is already with us and is likely to become bigger in the coming years. No region on Earth, including Adrion, will escape this. And what makes it a real worry is that the whole global environmental situation is way more complicated than 'just climate change', or 'global warming'. The whole world is poised to be trapped in a 'perfect storm', which is building up as a consequnce of the rather unfortunate confluence of four major trends:
- human population explosion (including the 'rising expectations of better life' in the Third World, led by the global giants, China and India);
- peak oil, coupled with shortages of other key resources (notably water);
- climate change and other manifestations of saturated or damaged planetary sinks;
- continued rapid loss of biodiversity and natural habitat.

For those who believe in a dire and urgent situation pictured above (and agree that the multi-crisis must climax some time between 2020 and 2040 - unless some sort of global compact is achieved between 2010 and 2020), the global agenda is crystal clear:
- immediate, world-wide implementation of the 'sustainable development' policy;
- urgent, massive-scale transition to the 'green economy';
- profound transformation of human communities (cities, towns, villages) to the 'resilient mode' of operation (defined as a combination of super-efficiency in resource and waste management with a high degree of self-sufficiency).

The above imperative agenda is as true for Adrion as it is for any populated region on the planet. And if we wanted to be a little dramatic, we could also argue that this agenda is even more urgent in certain parts of Adrion than what might the world average, because of their natural geography, their historic level of depletion of critical resources, and their present demographic trends and political tensions. On the other hand, if we wanted to sound optimistic, we could argue that Adrion has a treasure trove of material heritage like no other region of the world - of relevance to sustainable modes of production and consumption. This unrivaled accumulation of practices and patterns shows us today how peoples on both sides of the Adriatic and Ionian seas, over millennia, have managed to build and maintain successful, sustainable, resilient and prosperous communities and regions (and all this would become apparent and accessible should Prof. Bianchini's proposal for a 'virtual museum' becomes a reality).

It follows than then this second aspect of the 'bigger picture' is telling us the same as the first - that Adrion states should drop their historical grievances and rivalries and divert their energies towards security and prosperity for all. Before it's too late. The dual agenda of sustainability (aimed at mitigation) and resilience (aimed at adaptation) is the emerging absolute global imperative and non-negotiable global norm. It is urgent and big. There is no way around it. Only countries - or collaborating groups of countries - which acknowledge the new imperative and embrace the new norm early and without reservation, will be able to navigate the vagaries of the 21st century. And only they can hope for stability and prosperity, instead of turmoil and misery.

(D. Bogunovich, Auckland, Jan 2011)

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Last Updated on Friday, 24 December 2023 10:54  


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