On the 21st and 22nd of November took place in Ljubljana the Interreg Euro-MED Event “Connecting the Dots: The Path for a Smarter and Greener Mediterranean.” With 18 speakers, more than 200 participants in person and 160 online, the two-day event was an important opportunity for exchange, reflections, and discussions on development and cooperation for a more sustainable Mediterranean region.
During the first day, the link between 2014-2020 and 2021-2027 programming periods was at the heart of the debate.
The event opened with a presentation of the results achieved during the 2014-2020 programming period, which involved 832 partners from 13 MED Countries in 142 projects with a total expenditure of 212 MEUR. Building on this, the session highlighted the importance of capitalising on the past results to ensure continued impact in the Mediterranean in the current programming period and beyond.
After a brief presentation of the architecture of the Euro-MED Programme and its 4 Missions, the 8 governance projects took the floor to explain their scope and how they intend to work towards the objectives set by the Programme to face global challenges. Two representatives of the Mission Innovative Sustainable Economy participated in the debate: Natalia Tsami, Dynamic Vision, and Maria Garcies, CPMR. Natalia Tsami reaffirmed our commitment to facilitating the transition from a linear to a circular economic model, allowing innovative sustainable practices to become the new norm. She reinforced our desire to connect the green and blue economies and create a solid ground for smarter territorial development. Maria Garcies highlighted two challenges that we want to address over the next six years. The first challenge is to effectively transfer the results to other beneficiaries, beyond the project, in other regions of the programme area or outside it; the second one is to promote the adoption of the results in the policies and practices of the Mediterranean actors, so that they last beyond the end of the projects.
Another highlight of the meeting was the need to work closely and in an integrated way with the thematic projects approved under the Mission umbrella to further consolidate our scope and increase the Mission’s impact. In fact, on the 21st of November 2023, the Interreg Euro-MED Programme’s Monitoring Committee greenlit 56 projects (four conditionally) out of 122 initially assessed, for a total amount of more than 118 million euros. More datails are available here.
During the event, some relevant external stakeholders also shared their expectations on the role of governance projects. They generally pointed out that their work is not starting from scratch, as a systematic approach to dialogue has already been established and there are practical opportunities for outreach, community building and linking Interreg results to policy discussions and other ongoing initiatives in the regional framework and beyond. Several opportunities were specifically mentioned:
- Cooperation with stakeholders from the southern shore of the Mediterranean in synergy with the work and actions of the Union for the Mediterranean, represented by Alessandra Sensi, and the PRIMA Program, represented by Omar Amawi.
- Contribution to the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD) of UNEP-MAP, represented by Patrizia Busolini, for the implementation of the SDGs at the Mediterranean level.
- Participation in the projects and processes of AEBR, represented by Cinzia Dellagiacoma, to promote cross-border cooperation and the involvement of new actors, such as the Interreg Volunteer Youth and B-Solutions initiatives.
The second day of the event substantiated the highlights of the previous day and provided an opportunity to reflect on the role of governance projects in this programming period. Bernard Massabo, Green Living Areas Mission – Dialogue4LivingAreas, outlined the need to promote complementarity between projects and programmes, support the implementation of existing policies, facilitate policymaking and participate in some reviews of processes and strategies. Alessandro Daraio, Mission Innovative Sustainable Economy – Dialogue4Innovation, encouraged not to lose sight of the territorial impact. Complementarities and synergies are only a means and not the end. Taking advantage of these complementarities means that all actors involved must identify their role, a space where they can add value and look for concrete actions of cooperation.
‘sThe closing session of the event was dedicated to some young voices to gather their experiences of participation in European territorial cooperation. Sara Barone, Mediterranean Youth Council, highlighted the great potential of youth actors to participate in the implementation of activities at local and macro-regional level and in the co-design of activities within the projects. Raphael Guyonnet, Interreg Youth Volunteer – Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, stressed the importance of advocacy initiatives, particularly in the field of environmental protection. Panagiota Pana, Interreg Volunteer Youth – University of Patras, closed the session by expressing the wish for more opportunities for discussion and engagement, such as the one offered by the event, to ensure an ever-greater involvement and impact of youth actions.
The event continued in the afternoon with four parallel workshops dedicated to the Missions of the Interreg Euro-MED Programme. The aim of our workshop, as Mission Sustainable Economy, was to co-design our common scope with the help of the participants. After a brief introduction, participants were asked to apply the MLP tool. They were divided into seven groups and provided with a set of cards describing key concepts of the Mission and some papers with an MLP template. The cards included the following concepts:
- Smart Specialisation Strategies
- Capacity building
- Diffusion of innovative sustainable practices
- Awareness raising of environmental and social challenges
- Building a community
- Transformative innovation spaces
- Innovation projects
At the end of the exercise, each group had the opportunity to talk about their vision, which was different from the others. However, they all agreed on the need to strengthen the sense of community to address common challenges and to join forces to steer innovation towards sustainable development paradigms. We returned home more convinced than ever that business as usual is no longer an option and that, as Innovation for a Sustainable Economy, we must foster a shared understanding of our reach to meet the challenges that lie ahead over the next six years.