During the MedCat Partners Forum 2023 the mission governance projects showcased how this new era of Interreg Euro-MED 2021-2027 programming period provides novel mechanisms to favour coordination among stakeholders to update and create innovative transformative policies as well as ensure on-the-ground implementation, and public debate catalysing actions to integrate innovative solutions to common Mediterranean challenges.
The governance projects within the Interreg Euro-MED Innovative Sustainable Economy mission participated in the MedCat Partners Forum in-person event which took place in Barcelona on 13 June 2023. The Ministry of Foreign Action and European Union of the Government of Catalonia and the European Institute of the Mediterranean, with the collaboration of the Alliance for Mediterranean Cooperation organised the 3rd edition of the MedCat Days 2023 to offer a space for meeting and dialogue, also for advocacy and visibility, at the service of the actors of Catalan external action in the Mediterranean.
Within the broader scope of contributing to “Transforming the Mediterranean”, this year the key topic was the GOVERNANCE DIMENSION as new opportunities for synergistic Euro-Mediterranean territorial alliances and cooperation. To this end, in the OPENING session Manuel Szapiro, Head of the European Commission Representation in Barcelona, highlighted the importance to achieve a Mediterranean Macroregion approach to enhance South-North, East-West, and South-South cooperation. He mentioned that Catalan institutions are present in key programmes such as Interreg Euro-MED, Interreg NEXT MED, PRIMA, Investment Fund, and some of Catalan projects are labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and therefore Catalonia has the role to “capitalise” for the Mediterranean. Moreover, he pointed out Catalonia is in a geostrategic situation in terms of food security, energy with the green hydrogen Hub, and water management matters. Being a “unique” well positioned actor to lead these common challenges in the Mediterranean. In addition, being the European Year of Skills 2023 there is the crucial need to involve young people and increase People2People projects. Miquel Royo, Secretary for the Catalan Government Foreign Action, followed up stressing that the governance dimension is a new opportunity to create multilevel alliances and a new working model, and the Catalan Government’s homework is to take advantage of this event to show the support to all implicated stakeholders. He concluded underscoring the notion of a singular Mediterranean beset by common challenges, and he emphasized the imperative of adopting an integrated, macroregional, and multilevel vision and commitment.
Under the MEDCAT PERSPECTIVES, Gemma Aubarell, Programmes Director at the European Institute of the Mediterranean, explained how territorial cooperation projects, now including the ‘governance’ concept, can be very useful tools to work together, involve the 4-ple helix stakeholders, and recirculate knowledge. She stressed that we are more used to competing or only coordinating. European projects with a Mediterranean dimension need to understand that the same problem, such as climate change, from the EU vision is an environmental emergency, and for example, for Lebanon vision it is a food security emergency. Therefore, we still need a more joint vision. And there are different programmes that offer the opportunity to achieve this joint vision. Within Interreg’s, Mercedes Acitores, INTERACT, stressed the overall need to coordinate all Interreg programmes and this is done through the Med Lab Group initiative (Interact Programme). Vincent Ernoux, representing ENI CBC MED Programme, emphasized the pivotal role of citizen involvement in governance, asserting that it amplifies the tangible outcomes at the grassroots level. Ernoux stressed the imperative to act by enhancing public institutions, fortifying consortiums through a multifaceted, multilevel, multisectoral approach, and fostering stronger connections between citizens and public services. In parallel, Libor Chlad, representing the Union for the Mediterranean, mentioned that governance from their organisation relies on a political perspective through non-binding declarations, a coordination to follow up on the political statements, and the materialization of these declarations with tangible work on the ground and by labelling projects that support the implementation of the action plans. Julià Rebés, secretary from PRIMA Foundation Programme, underscored the importance of horizontal (South-South) cooperation within 19 countries, considering the Mediterranean a climate change hotspot. In the past, research efforts were largely compartmentalized within specific sectors. However, the realization of the power of interconnecting these sectors through NEXUS has emerged, highlighting the potential for greater impact. For PRIMA, governance entails the potential to scale up technologies to the market. Be able to change regulations to facilitate collaboration is also working towards a better governance!
The session followed with MEDCAT SYNERGIES where Interreg Euro-MED governance projects from the 4 missions were introduced. In here, within the Innovative Sustainable Economy mission, Núria Bedós, policy officer at the Catalan Government Foreign Action Department, highlighted the more than 6 years’ experience of the Catalan Government in being part of these types of projects to have a more integrated and macroregional vision as well as the need to better coordinate with associated partners and external stakeholders through a recurrent voluntary process, but promoting the exchanges of knowledge, points of view, and longer-term strategic actions. Chaimae Essousi, policy officer at the Economic Strategy Area Department of Economy and Finance of the Catalan Government, followed by tackling what do we understand for Innovative Sustainable Economy, a kind of economy that puts itself at the service of the transition towards a fair, resilient, and equitable model. She stressed that in this decade it is crucial to raise again a new socio-economic model. Having structural and systematic challenges with a local and regional nature it is impossible to work alone. There is the need to be able to work with the complexity of polyhedron challenges (i.e. with different faces). She highlighted that for a novel and sustainable regional cooperation there is the need to take advantage of advanced technology, raise the value chains and the added value of competent small and medium enterprises, while mitigating the negative environmental impacts. She also highlighted that transformative innovative policies have five features. First the common vision, secondly the social aspect, thirdly the transversal and polyhedron perspective, fourthly by integrating the local actors, and finally use the regional government as a facilitator to exchange knowledge, instead of only being a top-down leader. Within the mission, this will happen through the Transformative Innovation Policy Labs (TIPL). Maria Calderó, project manager at BETA Technological Centre (UVic-UCC), highlighted the current governance projects’ synergies with institutions such as UfM which has labelled the Interreg Euro-MED governance projects and with the past Green Growth Community experience contributing to the GreenerMED Agenda 2030. Additionally, UNEP/MAP is one of the associated partners giving support through their experience in regional cooperation protecting the marine environment as well as coastal areas within the blue circular economy. And with other programmes where project partners are also active such as with other Interreg projects as the ZeroCO2MED offering an innovative tool to calculate the projects carbon footprint; ENI CBC MED projects such as Med4Waste tackling municipal waste management; or with Horizon projects such as the SHARED GREEN DEAL with the aim to better understand social practices and behaviour changes to offer a more responsible, equitable and desirable EU Green Deal. It was also highlighted the connection with other Mediterranean and circular economy initiatives, networks and platforms such as with SwitchMED, Circle the Med Forum, and the EU Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform. The significance of the network of the 24 associated partners built between the 2 governance projects under the Innovative Sustainable Economy mission cannot be overlooked, as well as a large window of upcoming opportunities for synergistic collaborations with institutions such as FAO and Circular Innovation Lab, through LIFE and PRIMA projects, initiatives such as Hubs4Circularity and SFS-MED Platform, UfM stakeholders and different EU DGs. In addition, the initiation on a Community of Practice was highlighted to give added value to the funded Interreg Euro-MED thematic projects that will be active during the whole life span of the governance projects as they will start later but finish earlier, with the objective to promote technical synergies as well as have time to mainstream novel solutions into efficient policies and replication on the ground. Georgina Calvo, representing the Sustainable Tourism mission, stressed their experience in being the community that gathered more relevant projects (more than 30) during the previous programming period and the importance to further align projects and policies to private actions and the market. She also emphasized that the EU does not hold direct competences on tourism and therefore the alignment with the Institutional Dialogue Project would be key the following 7 years. Finally, Laia Vinyes represented the protecting, restoring, and valorising the Natural Environment and Heritage as well as the promoting Green Living Areas missions. She emphasised the need to further understand and analyse the initial conditions at municipal level and the importance of these governance projects as catalysing actions to integrate important debates and changes of minds at local level. She also brought on the table the complexity to further replicate and integrate innovative solutions. It is important not to overwhelm policymakers and public authorities with a lot of different solutions. Instead, it is key to be able to target and integrate simpler actions that they can manage to implement.
The last session was the MEDCAT DIALOGUES where different Catalan institutions, all involved in the Interreg Euro-MED programme under the governance projects, explained their strategic position to achieve Mediterranean cooperation to enhance the transition towards a more sustainable model. Sergio Ponsà, director of BETA Technological Centre (UVic-UCC), stressed the position to use the diverse available programmes specific architectures and thematic objectives by bring research closer to policy makers to return to society the public investment. Therefore, BETA Technological Centre is leading 5 different types of capitalization projects from different programmes. Oriol Barba, director of MedCities, drew attention to three crucial aspects. Firstly, he emphasized the significance of effectively enhancing policies while maintaining a comprehensive perspective. Secondly, he advocated for a shift in focus towards knowledge rather than fixating solely on supply. It is essential to avoid the misconception that quantity equates to quality and genuine transformation. Lastly, Barba underscored the importance of higher educational and research centres as vital stakeholders in the pursuit of improved governance. As ‘homework’ he stressed the need to keep advancing to this path and involve more the private sector. Bearing in mind that as more actors are included more complex it becomes the ‘governance’ process. Xavier Bernard-Sans, secretary general of Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion, explained the importance to understand why regions need to cooperate, the necessity to connect the 4-ple helix stakeholders of the different ecosystems, and create 20 years long-term roadmaps to tackle specific territorial thematic. He emphasised that alliances and events like MedCat Partners Forum are key to know better ‘our neighbours’. Alícia-Pérez, scientific coordinator at CREAF, stressed out that there is often a significant emphasis on Policy2Science discussions, but less attention is given to the Science2Policy aspect. She also highlighted the current need of more ‘generalists’ profiles to better understand both “worlds”. Alessandro Miraglia, as MedWaves team leader, highlighted the need to achieve networks under their strong Green Innovation thematic approach to change the landscape. They are involved in different projects under the Capitalization scope (RESET project), the Dissemination and Exploitation area (BlueMissionMed project), and creating Multistakeholder Platform (The Switchers). Finally, Andrea Di Girolamo representing Adriatic Ionian Euroregion emphasised the importance of any coordination mechanism to not to waste efforts.
In the afternoon a Mission Innovation Informal meeting took place with reactions from the MedCat Partners Forum. The attendees were members from Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion, PRIMA, ENI CBC MED, MedCities, GenCat, BETA TC (UVic-UCC), MedWaves, and REVOLVE. It was highlighted the importance to centralise efforts and take advantage of each other’s networks and clusters. It was also discussed the importance to facilitate and promote synergies among different programmes’ projects and keep in touch to see if some points of interest converge. It was also stressed to consider the different levels of participation, from programmes, governance projects, and research/thematic/standard projects institutions and networks.
The Innovative Sustainable Economy mission governance projects will work on the definition of key actions and terms of references to make this cooperation happen in an aligned way. The contacts also remained open for any other potential collaboration with current and upcoming initiatives such as the SFS-MED Platform. The next meeting opportunity will be during the launch of the mission the 6th of July 2023 online. Register here!
Find the recorded session in here (mainly in Catalan): MedCatDays 2023 | MedCat Synergies. Governança I projectes: impacte, capitalizació i alliance. Find all livestreamed session in here: MedCat Days2023.