(fa fede solo il testo effettivamente pronunciato)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are meeting in a period in which Europe is facing political, social and economic challenges that require a stronger sense of ownership of our common Institutions. Nonetheless, developments such as the recent agreement between Serbia and Kosovo have confirmed that the European Union is still acting as a “magnet”, attracting its external neighbours and transforming and integrating them. Thanks to its prospects for EU membership, the whole Balkan area has become more stable and secure.
We are meeting in the crucial phase of the preparation of the Plan of Action of the “EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region”, after the European Council’s mandate of last 14th December to the Commission to present the Strategy before the end of 2014.
We believe that the Strategy has a significant political meaning. We launched it because we are convinced, in line with Italy’s strong commitment towards the Western Balkans, that this area will become “internal” to the EU. The Strategy would encourage – without replacing itself the Enlargement criteria – the progress of non-EU Balkan countries towards EU accession. In the elaboration as well as in the implementation of the Strategy, Candidate countries can work together with current and future EU Member States, increasingly acquiring European standards and best practices. Allow me to state Croatia represents a model for non-EU Countries of the Strategy, as it just successfully accomplished the significant homework to acquire the EU standards for the accession.
Let me also recall the the Italian Foreign Minister, Emma Bonino, announced that her first visit abroad apart from institutional commitments, will take place in Belgrade and in Pristina, in order to mark the Italian high commitment to the stability of the area in name of European values of peace, security, freedom and justice.
The Adriatic and Ionian Strategy enjoys strong political commitment and awareness in the involved countries and represents not only a challenge, but also a great opportunity for the EU itself. It would in fact encourage cohesion beyond the borders of the EU, in a sensitive area for the stability of the continent. The mission of the Strategy is connecting and protecting. It fosters the political and economical development of a European sensitive area and connects the Balkan area to the Baltic and the Danube Regions, where an EU Macro-regional Strategy already operates. The Adriatic and Ionian Strategy is also politically and technically complementary with the “EU Strategy for the Danube Region”, which includes as well several non-Member States, some of them are indeed also members of the Adriatic and Ionian Macro-region (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia).
Furthermore, we are convinced that the Strategy would give new impulse, through multi-level governance based on the EU acquis and on the involvement of territories and stakeholders, to a better use of EU funds and to more effective regional policies, compared with the existing fora, which differ as for membership, mission, procedure, funding mechanism. Our Countries should thus ensure coordination between the elaboration of the Plan of Action of the “Strategy” and the 2014-2020 Programming. The non-EU Countries of the Strategy should ensure coordination between the Plan of Action and the relevant Instrument of Pre-Accession Funds and Programmes.
In a nutshell, we should be aware of the fact that the Adriatic and Ionian Macro-region requires us to ensure more responsibility, more quality and less duplication in the use of EU and national funds, as well as in regional cooperation Fora, starting from the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative.
Since more than a decade, our eight Countries have been sharing a fruitful inter-governmental cooperation in the framework of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative. The effectiveness of intergovernmental cooperation as a driving force to stability and economic development of the area is symbolized by the progress that most of our Countries are making in the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline project, to which Italy is highly committed. I am glad to recall in this regard the signature in Athens on the 13th of February, 2013, of the Intergovernmental Agreement between Albania, Italy and Greece on the construction and operation of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project and the signature in Tirana on the 23rd of May, 2013, of the Memorandum of Understanding between Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro for the support and cooperation in the realization of the project of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline Project (TAP) and the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline Project (IAP).
Dear Colleagues, Distinguished Guests:
As Adriatic and Ionian Initiative Member States, we are now committed to working to a well-focused and sustainable, thus effective, Plan of Action of the Adriatic and Ionian Strategy. We should evolve from traditional inter-governmental cooperation to the innovative and territory-based framework of the Macro-regional Strategy for our area. Our Governments must in fact prepare the Adriatic and Ionian Macro-region by identifying common challenges and relevant goals and actions that can be better addressed through effective and realistic macro-regional response.
Both the Sea and the Hinterland dimension of the Plan of Action may benefit of macro-regional approach aimed at more quality and a better use of EU and national funds, in sectors such as mobility, environmental protection, maritime safety and security, research and innovation, capacity building. Without macro-regional approach, for example, we may not work towards a common, updated system of maritime traffic monitoring nor to the enhancement of competitiveness of Adriatic and Ionian Ports and to their effective connections to Trans European Networks in Pan-European Corridors.
In the perspective of the political and technical preparation of the Strategy, I acknowledge two recent encouraging evolutions of the Adriatic Ionian:
1) the recent decision of the Conference of the Presidents of the Adriatic and Ionian Parliaments to enforce the Parliamentary Dimension of the Initiative through ad hoc Delegations with the main task of supporting the preparation of the Adriatic and Ionian Strategy. The role of the Adriatic and Ionian Parliaments has in fact been essential for the success of the Strategy since its promotion in 2010.
2) the integration of the Secretariats of the three Adriatic and Ionian Fora (Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Chambers of Commerce; UNIADRION – Universities; Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Cities and Towns) and of the Permanent Secretariat of the Initiative. The Adriatic and Ionian Initiative should in fact allow civil society in all its dimensions to better interact with the governmental dimension, in coherence with the Adriatic and Ionian Strategy which is based on interests and needs of territories and thus on the “multi-level governance”.
Finally, we need more Regional Cooperation to stand united and to achieve common goals. It is up to us, to our Governments, to make Regional Cooperation work effectively and concretely and thus be beneficial for the progress of our Countries and of the European Union.
This is the only way to confirm the political meaning of the Regional Cooperation Initiatives. This is the only way to be successful in promoting the Macro-regional Strategies. This is the only way, dear Colleagues, to achieve soon a full stabilization of the whole Balkan region and a concrete progress in the European path of the non-EU Countries of the region.
The presentation of the Adriatic and Ionian Strategy is due to take place, in coherence with the European Council’s mandate, before the end of 2014. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the World War I. After one century, a significant framework based on an innovative territorial cooperation model of the European Union may make the Balkan region closer to the Union, safer and more prosperous for the benefit of the whole continent.
Before concluding, let me express deep gratitude to the Slovenian Presidency, which committed to coherence with the path to the Adriatic and Ionian Macro-region, and wish to the Albanian Presidency, which will begin on June 1st, 2013, a successful AII Presidency, that will enjoy full Italian support.