Conclusions of the 3rd Balkan Forum 2021 entitled
“THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BALKANS IN THE POST-COVID ERA”
that will be sent to the European Commission in order to be evaluated and included in the Programming Period 2021-2027
1) In the 1st sub-session of the first round table entitled: “Cross-border green deal: green entrepreneurship, sustainable development, circular economy”, the EU’s priorities in the fields of green entrepreneurship, circular economy and sustainable development, for which more than 30% of the NSRF structural funds and the recovery fund for the period 2021-2027 are committed, were presented along with initiatives of government structures, scientific and civil society organizations in cross-border zones, promoting sustainable development projects and actions in those areas.
In the 2nd sub-session of the first round table, emphasis was placed on the analysis of the circular economy model, the progress of the EU to date towards the full transition to it and the future steps needed. It should be noted that the European Commission estimates that the application of the principles of circular economy in all sectors and industries can have a net economic benefit of up to 1.8 trillion euros by 2030, to create more than 1 million new jobs in the EU and play a central role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thus contributing to the goal of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050.
2) In the 2nd section entitled: “Smart practices of cross-border cooperation with a tourism-agri-food and developmental footprint for the citizens of the Balkans”, it was noted that cross-border cooperation is an integral part of regional development. Presentations were made on the financial instruments in place, the way to achieve the requested cooperation and sustainable development, as well as the way of raising European funds in two sectors that are pillars for the economy of our countries, the agri-food sector and tourism. We now need, more than ever, such cooperation for sustainable development, reversing the negative effects of climate change and recovery in the post-Covid era.
3) In the 3rd section entitled: “The role of innovation and new technologies in the development of infrastructure and networks for the new Programming Period 2021-2027”, it was found that there is much room for improvement of the Balkan cities, in order to become more resilient and smarter. Large and emblematic infrastructure projects (e.g. Technology Parks) can enhance and change the profile of a city, while banking institutions are essential in financing mature large-scale projects. Examples of public-private partnerships in infrastructure and new technologies were presented in the section: energy in Western Macedonia, logistics in Novisad, Serbia, and smart transport and cities in Romania. The importance of mobilizing many heterogeneous actors and local communities for the maturation of large infrastructure and network projects, as well as the role of Interreg programmes, which remains important for social cohesion, were highlighted.
4) In the 4th section entitled: “The new perspectives – cohesion policies and the development tools for the strengthening of interregional cooperation between the Balkan countries”, it was noted that the transition from the classic vertical, sectoral, but also local models of development to those of broader co-operations has been recognized for several years by the European Union, governments, regional and local administrative institutions, the business world and the scientific and research community. The role of SMEs and Industries, the role of exhibition agencies such as the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), as well as the role of local governments in promoting sustainability, were presented with specific examples from the Balkans. The experience of cross-border cooperation and Interreg, the challenges faced by Western Balkan actors, as well as the new requirements created by the new European tools for the promotion of cooperation in the Balkans and the Adriatic-Ionian Macro-Region were analysed.
5) The speakers’ contributions highlighted:
a) The need to deepen the cooperation of public, self-governing, private, social and scientific bodies of the Balkans and Southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean in the fields of investment, entrepreneurship, environment and culture;
b) The need to support the creation and development of Clusters of Territorial cooperation in cross-border regions;
c) The need for synergy between the Structural Funds, the cross-border and transnational Interreg programmes and the EU Recovery Fund and the National and Regional Programmes in the areas of Green Entrepreneurship, Digital Transformation and Convergence for Sustainable Development and Cohesion in the Balkans and South-East Europe;
d) The importance of all decentralised institutions (such as the Ministry of Interior Sector Macedonia and Thrace and the Interreg Managing Authority) adjoining cross-border areas, since according to the European principles of subsidiary and proximity they can contribute more efficiently to the specialization and effective implementation of Central and Regional policies in terms of sustainable development;
On the second day of the conference, online B2G meetings (business to government) were organized with the participation of government and investment agencies. A fruitful and constructive dialogue, which should contribute to the increase of the added value of investments in the Balkans, has been developed and will continue in the next Balkan Forum.
It was suggested that the theme of the 4th Balkan Programmatic Forum of 2022 should be: “Digital Transformation, Networking, Cooperation and Convergence in the Balkans”
The 3rd Balkan Forum was held in compliance with public health protocols.
The two-day conference was attended by 51 speakers from Governmental, Self-Governing, Scientific and Productive institutions of the Balkans, out of which 29 were from Greece and 22 from the other cooperating countries of the Balkans. Additionally, 200 participants of institutions registered on the electronic platform and participated online in the conference and an additional 150 delegates of institutions attended it in person divided into 4 thematic sessions, while hundreds of other institutions and citizens attended it in livestreaming.