Interreg MED Programme: an innovative system of cooperation among different stakeholders for a more integrated Mediterranean

Convinced that the value of Interreg MED funded projects goes far beyond the 240m euro of global financial endowment of the programme, UNIMED has dedicated to this cooperation programme a two-hour workshop in the framework of its annual General Assembly, which took place at the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, on the 31st October 2017 in Paris. This workshop has been the occasion to share with our associated Universities, both from the North and South shores of the Mediterranean, our experience as well as the point of view of the main partners we are working with and the Joint Secretariat of the Interreg MED Programme - the authority that is coordinating the whole programme. The discussion has been introduced and moderated by Ermete Mariani, Communication Manager of UNIMED.

Paris, 17 November 2017 (BleuTourMed) - Interreg MED Programme main aim is to strengthen European cohesion by funding very targeted and high quality trans-regional territorial cooperation projects focusing on four strategic axes of the Mediterranean future: Natural and Cultural Resources, Innovation, Low Carbon Economy and Governance. UNIMED – Union of Mediterranean Universities is engaged in three, out of eight, thematic communities of projects under the Natural and Cultural Resources and the Low Carbon Economy axes. We work in partnership with local public authorities, international organisations, Universities and NGOs, and our main task is to share the knowledge and to disseminate the results produced by these projects.

Convinced that the value of Interreg MED funded projects goes far beyond the 240m euro of global financial endowment of the programme, UNIMED have dedicated to this cooperation programme a two-hour workshop in the framework of its annual General Assembly, which took place at the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, on the 31st October 2017 in Paris. This workshop has been the occasion to share with UNIMED's associated Universities, both from the North and South shores of the Mediterranean, our experience as well as the point of view of the main partners we are working with and the Joint Secretariat of the Interreg MED Programme - the authority that is coordinating the whole programme. The discussion has been introduced and moderated by Ermete Mariani, Communication Manager of UNIMED.

Interreg MED is funding relatively small projects that last 18 or 36 months maximum, it is endowed with 240m euro fund, it has so far funded almost a hundred projects and a last call could be made by the end of 2018 or beginning 2019. “However, as Interreg MED Programme’s main aim is to influence the policy making process at local, national and European level and it is a relatively small programme – affirmed Curzio Cervelli, Coordinator of the Joint Secretariat of the Interreg MED Programme – we have funded high quality and very targeted projects, and we have also created specific projects, the so-called “horizontal projects”, whose main task is to build thematic communities of projects, as well as communicating and capitalizing on their results”. To promote territorial cooperation for a more sustainable development, the Programme encourages a closer collaboration between public authorities, universities, international organisations and NGOs who share a common vision for the future of the Mediterranean region.

“The Barcelona Provincial Council is investing a lot in an international strategy because we believe that most of our challenges as public administration have to be tackled at international level, especially when it comes to tourism” affirmed Josep Rodriguez,European Projects and International Relations, Tourism Department, Barcelona Provincial Council (DIBA). “We are currently a partner of BleuTourMed_C3 project, together with UNIMED, contributing in strengthening the MED Sustainable Tourism Community – continued Rodriguez – we have previously taken part to the development of common indicators to assess tourism pressures with the European Commission; and we are actively engaged in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation UNWTO”. “Our participation to Interreg MED projects it is a building block of a greater strategy for the Barcelona Provincial Council– concluded Rodriguez – we want to build relationships with our partners that can go beyond the projects lifetime because our main aim is to find joint solutions to joint challenges of tourism.”

“Through the Interreg MED thematic community ‘Green Growth’ our University and more specifically the innovation centre, which I coordinate, is willing to improve its competitiveness and its capacity to innovate” affirmed Sergio Ponsá Salas, Director of BETA Innovation Center of the University of Vic – Centre of Catalonia, a hub that promote innovative projects in close partnership with the private sector. “Promoting Green Growth and a more sustainable development it is also a way to be more consistent with our social responsibility – continued Ponsá Salas –, as we have received so much from the communities that surround and support our University, we believe it is time to give something back, and this kind of projects that promotes a more sustainable future for the whole region it is a very good way to do it”.

The engagement of local public authorities it is another important piece of the Interreg MED cooperation architecture, as they can play a pivotal role in most of the projects. Latin Arc as a platform for technical and political cooperation, which comprises local and intermediate governments from the North-Western Mediterranean region, is leading the MED Sustainable Tourism Community. “Our engagement in this kind of projects is a way to respond to some of the strategic challenges local and intermediate governments, which we represent, are facing” underlined Roberto Grassi, European Project Manager of Latin Arc. “Local governments are seeking opportunities to work in close cooperation with Universities, International Organisations and NGOs because we know that the solutions to most of our citizens’ problems can come exclusively from a closer cooperation of all these actors – continued Roberto Grassi – and finally in the Interreg MED Programme we have find the ideal framework to make this happen”.

The challenges and risks entailed by such a variegated and almost unprecedented partnerships were also been addressed by all the speakers. Most notably it has emerged that every typology of organisations has got its different priorities, way of interpreting the mission of the project, different working procedures and also methodologies to assess the impact of their actions. “By encouraging different stakeholders to join forces and to leverage their collective soft power we hope we can achieve our biggest ambition of influencing the policy making process at local, national and European level for the common good of our region – highlighted Curzio Cervelli, Coordinator of Interreg MED Joint Secretariat –, however measuring this kind of outcome is not an easy task because we really should focus not on the quantity but on the quality of our results”.

UNIMED’s role in the three Interreg MED Projects it is mainly to take care of the communication, and our overall objective as a network of Universities from both shores of the Mediterranean Sea is to spread the knowledge produced in this framework throughout all the network as the challenges we tackle are strategic for the future of the whole region: sustainable tourism, urban mobility and biodiversity protection.

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