European Straits Initiative -konferens i Vlora, Albanien

New impulsion for the European Straits Initiative

The members of the European Straits Initiative gathered in Vlora (Albania) on 8th October 2015, on the invitation of the Regional Council of Vlora.

Group picture map
ESI group picture Vlora. The Kvarken Council was represented by Mr Mattias Larsson (far right). 

Four years after the first meeting of the Initiative, this political conference was a great opportunity to give a new impulsion to the work undertaken so far, with the creation of three thematic commissions to enhance the exchange of experience and foster the recognition of the straits specific issues at European level:
“Transport and mobility” commission, chaired by Harju County Government (Estonia – Gulf of Finland)
“Tourism, natural and cultural heritage” commission, chaired by the Regional Council of Vlora (Albania – Strait of Otranto)
“Environment, biodiversity and climate change” commission, chaired by Kent County Council (United-Kingdom – Dover Strait).
A special time of exchanges has been dedicated to the issue of migrations and the debate ended with the adoption of a joint statement, the content of which highlights the key role of straits as maritime passageways in migratory roads and offers to create a fourth commission on this topic.

The morning ended with the official signature of the Memorandum of Understanding of the European Straits Initiative by the Region of Ionian Islands (Greece – Strait of Corfu); the Regional government of Andalusia (Spain – Strait of Gibraltar) and the Governorship of Nabeul (Tunisia – Strait of Sicily) are also in the process of entering the European Straits Initiative, bringing to 22 the number of local authorities involved in the cooperation and demonstrating the strong interest raised by the first results of the Initiative.

The day continued with a field visit of some important touristic sites of the region of Vlora, including the archaeological site of Oriku and vestiges from the communist period. It enabled the participants to deepen the debate started in the framework of the second commission and identify areas for future cooperation in the field of tourism development. The afternoon ended with the visit of the Museum of independence of Albania, providing a short history of the institutional and geopolitical background of the region of Vlora.

One year after the final conference of NOSTRA project and renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding of the European Straits Initiative, this political meeting demonstrates that the partners of the ESI still have a lot to share to enhance the integrated and sustainable development of their territories.

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