ROME, PODGORICA – The presidency of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII) passes from Italy to Montenegro. The handover was made official during Foreign Undersecretary Alfredo Mantica’s mission to Podgorica, during which the future of the Adriatic-Ionian Macro-region was discussed as well. Montenegro wants to continue its efforts to constitute a macro-region of 100 million people by 2014. The new macro-region should lead to the economic integration of the countries on both shores, in the prospect of the EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans. During Italy’s presidency, two protocols were signed on small and medium-sized enterprises and agriculture, while another agreement on tourism is on its way. And a protocol on cultural cooperation may also be passed under Podgorica’s aegis, leaving the chapters on the environment, transport and infrastructures to be studied in depth.
Italy, Greece and Slovenia (the countries of the AII), meanwhile, are promoting the European institutions project. On June 8 of this year, the Regions’ Committee gave the green light to Mantica to prepare an advice in the coming months, similar to the work that has already been done for the Baltic, Danube and North Sea macro-regions. Then, together with Slovenia’s Foreign Undersecretary and Greece’s Minister of Agriculture, Mantica asked for the support of the members of the European Parliament of these three countries. Montenegro is interested in acquiring the elements of this initiative; Italy wants to work in close cooperation with Podgorica, which also holds the presidency of the Central European Initiative (CEI), to make the initiative more visible and send a positive signal to Brussels.
"The Adriatic-Ionian macro-region is a method to accelerate the European integration of all AII countries", Foreign Undersecretary Mantica explained in Podgorica during the first meeting of high officials of Montenegro’s AII presidency. Mantica pointed out that work is continuing on the liberalisation of visas for Bosnia and Albania, "which will hopefully be completed by the end of this year, so that we will be able to talk from equal positions". Mantica also explained that the target to start the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region is 2014. Italy, Greece and Slovenia are supporting this battle at the European Union and the Montenegrin presidency "must help us support this political goal", the Undersecretary added. This concept was made clear to Montenegro’s Foreign Minister Milan Rocen as well. Mantica has explained to Rocen that Brussels has expressed doubts on this project, like the scarce integration in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the incomplete efficiency of the Albanian parliament. And still "we need to point out how much progress we have made so far, for example in the area’s economic and social development". The Montenegrin Minister agreed on the European prospects of his country and of the entire Western Balkans, and recognised Italy the role of sponsor for his country’s EU accession.
Under Italy’s presidency, which came to an end in May of this year, two protocols have been signed: one on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and one on rural cooperation. Under Montenegro’s presidency, according to Mantica, "the goal is to sign five protocols", including agreements on tourism, the environment and culture.
Continuity is also the slogan of Montenegro and Serbia, which will take over the AII’s presidency. In particular, Podgorica has pledged to finalise the protocols that have been promoted by Italy, and has selected tourism, SME, transport, environmental protection, cultural cooperation and cooperation between universities as its own areas of interest. The Italian regions play a crucial role in the initiative’s success. According to Mantica, these regions have "the organisation and the means to support the project". Therefore the Undersecretary wants to organise a meeting in September between Italian regions and AII members. "The AII", Mantica underlined, "is a successful initiative because all its members are equal, they are all European with three countries already in the EU and five other hoping to join the Union".
Source: Vecchio sito IPA