Collective brain-storm on the Adriatic Ionian Initiative in Faenza, Italy on 17th December, 2010

The Institute for the Central Europe and the Balkans on the 16th of December, 2010 has organized a collective brain-storm in Faenza, Italy. Professors from Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia were about to work out potential proposals for the Adriatic Ionic Initiative. As a result of the brain-storm, all these proposals will be transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Mr.Franco Frattini for further actions.

Adriatic Ionic Initiative is “a modern perspective, these interests are coincident with: security, economics, trade, scientific and technological research and development, environment conservation, and, finally, preservation of cultural heritage and values, which are plentiful in this region”.( http://www.uniadrion.net/initiative.php)

Brain-storm is a method considered to be very popular in the theory of decision-making. It  provides the flow of ideas in rather informal atmosphere  where the critique is prohibited. This brain-storm organized in Faenza was an important step for depicting the profile of the region known as the AdrIon which in its turn will help to create its identity in the future. The first  part of the brain-storm consisted of short presentations made by professors. The aim of such 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 brain-storm was devoted to the ideas flow in a way what could be suggested and done?

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

Milica Uvalic from the University of Perugia in Italy mentioned the following crucial points – slow economic recovery of the Western Europe after the crises;  democracy functioning and institutions downgrade after crises. In this context, low level of confidence was fixed and institutions became ineffective; cooperation within the region is more academically centered, there should be more common projects.

Alessandro Grafini, ambassador of the Adriatic Ionian Initiative also claimed 3 crucial problems in depicting the AdrIon. 1.economic problems – income per capita in Slovenia, for example, is 8000 euro while in Bosnia it amounts to 2000 euro.  Economic misbalance, in his point of view, is the main issue 2. Vast consequences  of ethnic, political conflicts. 3. Development of political and economic organization. For example, 3 members of the AdrIon – Italy, Greece, Slovenia – are the EU members. Croatia is about to join. Others are behind.

Milan Bufon from the University of Primorska in Slovenia concentrated mainly on geopolitics and history what is the AdrIon members all possess in common. He also stated that integration on institutional level is more active that integration on human level. And usually good cooperation starts on a grass-root level.

Professor Remzi Lani from Albanian Media Institute outlined that there is no precise agenda of the AdrIon. He stated that it is a pity, human level is still full of prejudices and biases more than institutional level, especially, when visa regime for Albania was removed in summer 2010.

Greek participant Nikolaos Tzifakis from Peloponnese University highlighted that 1. All the AdrIon member-states have different foreign policy dimensions and priorities, they are not constructing common identity, as a result, reality constructing is facing much difficulties. 2. There is a great economic misbalance among the AdrIon members. 3. Good coordination is necessary, however, nowadays, it is also absent.

Francesco Privitera from Bologna University, Italy stated that the brain-storm method is highly important in terms of contributing to macroregion development. It helps to discuss proposals and find answers to the questions. However, he stated that the main problem of this region 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. Privitera also stated that we should refrain from the past legacy of post-communism and post-cold war and move into the future.

Sotiraq Hroni from the Institute for Democracy and Mediation in Tirana believes that the 3 drawbacks of the AdrIon are: 1. Lack of initiative 2.Potential existence of the Initiative is also questioned 3. Communication capacities in the region are low.

Ivan Jakocic, president of Adriatic Euroregion, outlined that states of the AdrIon are very much different economically (GDP), politically (the EU members/non EU members), socially. Thus, the cooperation is very difficult, it takes lots of time, moreover, money from the EU on the projects is not enough. At the same time, cooperation among Universities of the AdrIon is quite high. Jakocic believes it is important to organize conferences, to speak with each other. It is also important to create common Adriatic identity how it is made in the Northern  Europe between Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and north-western parts of Russia. The main core of Northern identity is sustainability and peace. As a result, a number of initiatives, number of projects, various councils were created and function actively.

Muris Cicic from the University of Sarajevo stressed the problem of leadership in the AdrIon. He outlined that there are no charismatic leaders in the region that could lead their countries to prosperous future. Moreover, there are a huge number of political problems among the AdrIon members. Bosnia and Herzegovina are recovering from the war, Serbia and Kosovo have serious clashes, Macedonia and Greece still have disputes. This prevents the countries from cooperation and integration. In this way the region is not moving forward. Week governments are not capable to resolve all the problematic issues.

Professor Stephanie Schwandner –Sievers from the University of Bologna outlined that tourism could be a good solution for cooperation among the AdrIon members. She mentioned the project known as “Adriatic tourism” which is also a milestone for the region cooperation.

Emilio Cocco from the University of Teramo stressed the following problems. The AdrIon culturally and socially united should be compared with the Baltic Sea State region in the future. Political representation, legacy of imperialism, nationalism, religious issue are all highly important.

Jovan Teokarevic from Belgrade University dictum that more certain goals of the AdrIon integration are not defined, they are vague. He is asking the question – what the region is intended to do? Teokarevic believes that there are two main ideas that the region should try to enforce – the Grand idea and functional integration. The main idea of the AdrIon should become “europeanizing”. Functional integration is a very acute issue. Thus, the EU-Balkans summit in Brdo in Slovenia in June 2010 was a disaster. Serbia boycotted the summit as well as high officials of the EU didn’t participate. This summit also proved that the EU leaders are not interested in meeting the Balkan leaders. This all means, that AdrIon has to work a lot on functional democracies.

Professor Luigi Vittorio Ferraris from the University of Sapienza, Rome  named among a vast number of problems of the region: grand idea of the Balkans; political differences of states (the EU-members and non-EU members); deep economic misbalance etc.

Professor Stefano Binachini claimed that the region is very week, it faces also international underestimation (the result of the EU-Balkans summit in June 2010; lack of financing). There is no policy dispense as well. However, peace and sustainability are very much important. The three main problematic issues outlined by professor Bianchini are: the AdrIon shares common geopolitics (the Adriatic Sea) and culture (UNESCO legacy is in high concentration); innovation and research could be a crucial step in future integration and cooperation; civil society development is necessary in the forms of various networks.

Victor Bojkov, Bulgarian official in the European Commission stated that the Adriatic Ionian Initiative should gather also on the high level of Ministers on a permanent basis. He also claimed that the identity of the Western Balkans is strong but it is not enough to develop the AdrIon.

Simona Mameli, a project-manager from Bern University presented results of the questionnaire, which has been elaborated in order to know perceptions on the Adriatic Ionian Initiative. However, Bulgaria and Romania didn’t participate. Eighty young academics from the AdrIon region aged 35 with postgraduate degree became the respondents. This questionnaire was also gender-balanced. The first question was devoted to the identity of the region. 55% of respondents said that identify themselves with the Western Balkans, 33% identify themselves with the Eastern Europe, 18% identify themselves with the Adriatic region (mostly Italian and Croatian respondents). The second question concerned regional initiatives. As a result, 50% of respondents know nothing on regional initiatives, other 50% know the Adriatic Ionian Initiative, Stability Pact for Eastern Europe, a number of small initiatives. This questionnaire has shown that the main problematic issue of the AdrIon is a lack of cooperation and overlapping initiatives. She has also mentioned 3 problematic issues which the region faces: distrust and prejudice; spread corruption; nationalism.

The second part of the brainstorm was devoted to certain proposals which will be helpful for the AdrIon in the future:

–          Cooperation among Universities should be strengthened (more common projects, conferences, double-degree programs, “Adriatic tourism” etc.)

–          Common AdrIon identity should be created and stereotypes should be removed (by the example of the Northern identity)

–          Visa-regime removal is a good way for the future integration

–          Funding expanding, since all the projects are built on the national funding

–          Transport and infrastructure upgrading

–          Help to each other in economic recovery

–          Industrial policy strengthening

–          The EU future membership might also help

–          Tourism development

–          Helsinki approach based on sustainability, peace and more Initiatives creation should be used

–          Civil society creation (NGO’s, support of the international film festival in Sarajevo etc)

–          The EU legislation updating

–          European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation strengthening

–          Tolerance to immigrants developing

–          Virtual museum of the AdrIon should be created that could help depicting all its aspects

–          More networks should be created (like SICRIS, SEE net)

–          Cooperation in culture, innovation and research must be strengthened

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

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