Kavala, 27 March 2014: AEBR Forum on Cross-Border Cooperation in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea Area 2014-2020:

(Source of the photo: Ms Io CHATZIVARYTI)

(=>This article is available in ENGLISH and GERMAN).

On 27 March 2014, the Greek Municipality of Kavala hosted the AEBR Forum “Cross-Border Cooperation in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea Area 2014-2020”.

30 participants from Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Portugal and Spain were welcomed by Mr Kostis SIMITSIS, Mayor of Kavala, Mr Kyriakos CHARAKIDIS, AEBR Vicepresident and Mayor of Drama, and Ms Ann-Sofi BACKGREN, First Vicepresident of the AEBR, Region of Ostrobothnia (FI), who stressed the need of active platforms for regions and municipalities to defend their particularities, the need of urban-rural integration,  the lack of coherence of some programmes of cooperation to adjust to these particularities with the target of getting benefits for the citizens. 

Martín GUILLERMO RAMIREZ, Secretary General of AEBR, offered some views on the new European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the expected programmes and regulations for the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA). They undergo their preparation process, being most of the regions very much busy with consultations, more or less regional, more or less national, depending on every case. 

The ENI: 15:433 billion € for the new 7 year ENI budget, a bit decreased from the 2011 proposal but still quite a success in the current financial climate. Interesting the incentive based approach, supporting those partners implementing broad and comprehensive democratisation process and other agreed reforms. More-for-more mechanisms, coordination with other EU instruments, indicative priorities and the role of the Russian Federation, re-defined as an Strategic Partner under the ENI with no longer bilateral support, but keeping support under multi-country programmes (regional and cross-border) and Erasmus. According to the European External Action Service, the Strategic Dialogue between the European External Action Service and the European Parliament should be ready before the end of the EP sessions (right now), then an internal agreement should be made within the EU services in order to consult the Member States in July and launch first umbrella programmes. Concrete programmes will be identified in parallel, allowing for commitments before the end of 2014. However, the current crisis in Ukraine can affect very much the current phase of preparation of programmes.

He informed the participants about the permanent relationship with some of the Ukrainian and Russian member of the AEBR, as well as with other partners in the region. Several initiatives have been discussed and most relevant developments are followed very closely.
(Source of the photo: Ms Io CHATZIVARYTI)

Afterwards, he moderated the round table “Observations from the Field” on the state-of-the-art of ENI and IPA programmes, with contributions from the EU-Russian, Black Sea, and Mediterranean border areas. Mr Menelaos HATZIAPOSTOLIDIS (Municipality of Kavala, Greece) presented how the 3 ENPI-CBC-MED Programmes in the area - Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea, and Balkan Mediterranean - look like, and insisted in the frequent too national approach. Mr Johannes MOISIO (South Karelia, Finland) and Ms Eira VARIS (North Karelia, Finland) presented the perspectives of their programmes at the Finnish-Russian border, not very much affected by the current crisis and undergoing a normal process of consultation, despite of the reduction of national co-financing in Finland, putting more pressure to the regional and local level. The also referred to the Baltic macro-regional strategy and the need to keep people-to-people (P2P) projects.

Mr Jens GABBE, Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the AEBR, posed several questions on the general approach and on particular ones. the Black Sea Strategy and the Black Sea Euroregion, the effects of the crisis in Ukraine, relationship with Russia, the shift of ENPI-CBC from ETC.

A lively debate followed these presentations: Mr Alkis PAPADEMETRIOU (Euroregion Nestos-Mesta) explained the difficulties to begin the implementation of programmes between Greece and Bulgaria in 1992, and how CBC has overcome most of those difficulties since then. He stressed the role of P2P projects. The role of the private sector and capacity building were also discussed by the participants.

Ms Mehtap CIHAN MICONUNOGLU, representing the region of TRAKYAKENT, underlined the experiences at the Turkish borders with Greece and Bulgaria, presented the different CB programmes were Turkey takes part: Black Sea Operational Programme, the BG-TR CB Programme, a Council of Europe project on a Strategy Plan for Social Inclusion, a joint Internet portal for Thrace, and other projects and partnerships.

A presentation is available: CBC in Trakyakent.

Innovation was another of the topics of this Forum. Mr Heikki AALTO (Bothnian Arc, Finland-Sweden) presented the Report Regions and Innovation: Collaborating across Borders of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development within the series OECD Reviews on Regional Innovation. The Bothnian Arc participated as one of the cases under study by the OECD, together with Hedmark-Dalarna (NO-SE), Helsinki-Tallin (FI-EE), Ireland-Northern Ireland (IE-UK), Oresund (DK-SE) and the Top Technology Region Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen Triangle (NL-BE-DE). There is a presentation available:

Prof.Georgios SYLAIOS, Democritus University of Thrace (Source of the photo: Ms Io CHATZIVARYTI)

The local project FIGARO, a Flexible and Precise Irrigation System Platform to Improve Farm Scale Water Productivity, implemented by the Regional Union of Municipalities of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace & Democritus University of Thrace, was presented by Prof.Georgios SYLAIOS, Democritus University of Thrace.

There a presentation available:
FIGARO Project Presentation.

Georgios GAIDAJIS, Professor at Democritus University of Thrace (Source of the photo: Ms Io CHATZIVARYTI)

The following session “The experience of a local actor in the design and implementation of Territorial Cooperation Projects with non-EU Partners: The Municipality of Kavala in the Black Sea Bassin and the ENPI CBC MED”, was moderated by Mr Menelaos HATZIAPOSTOLIDIS, Special Advisor to the Mayor of Kavala. Georgios GAIDAJIS, Professor at Democritus University of Thrace explained the experiences from the implementation of the project BSBEEP, on Energy Efficiency in the Building stock of the Black Sea Basin Area, measured in reduction of the carbon footprint. Prof. Georgios SYLAIOS presented the project “Mare Nostrum: The Changing Mediterranean Coastal Environment: Global, Regional and Cross-Border Challenges”, with the participation of partners from Israel, Malta, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Italy. Presentations are available:

The forum was summed up by Martín GUILLERMO RAMIREZ, Secretary General of AEBR, taking some of the questions posed and presenting some possible answers with recommendations to EU institutions and participating countries.

More information:

Programme of the Forum (in English):
MARE NOSTRUM project website
FIGARO project website                

ENPI CBC MED website                  
OECD Report “Regions and Innovation: Collaborating across borders” 
Collection of articles published in Greek Newspapers

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